storytimewithbuffy

Archive for January, 2014|Monthly archive page

Joyland

In Book Reviews on January 29, 2014 at 6:00 am
Titan Books 2013

Titan Books 2013

This book was quite unlike Stephen King’s usual fare. I expected to be terrified but instead found something far different. This certainly isn’t a bad thing. Just not what I expected.

Nutshell blurb: Devin Jones recalls a summer in his youth where he worked at an amusement park in North Carolina called Joyland. A murder was committed years ago and the crime looms over the park and those who work there.

This story is a murder mystery with a heavy focus on the characters. The murder mystery isn’t the main point of the book, though. It focuses mainly on the protagonist and the things he’s going through in his life at that time. There isn’t a lot of action, but I found that to be ok because we really get into the main character’s head.

I know I’ve said this in previous posts, but Mr. King has a talent for creating characters that are relatable. His characters feel as thought they could really exist. For me, this is what makes his scary stories even scarier.

For this book, it was more about painting a vivid picture of a really likable guy.

I felt really sad when I finished this book. It was very moving and I had quite the book hangover when I finally put it down. Unfortunately, I finished it while I was on my lunch break and I found it really difficult to switch gears and get back to work.

Note to self: Don’t finish any more books at work!

It was pretty painful.

I really loved this book. It has a lot of soul. I think that you’ll be disappointed if you go into it thinking that it’s going to scare the pants off of you, but it’s worth a read if you can appreciate an excellent character study as well as a slow-burning murder mystery.

Heat Wave

In Book Reviews on January 26, 2014 at 6:00 am
Hyperion 2009

Hyperion 2009

I must inform you that I’m about to go into super-charged fan-girl mode. I LOVE the tv show Castle. I’ve only seen the first two seasons so far, so if you decide to make any comments, no spoilers please.

So recently, I was on the internet looking at something completely unrelated and one thing led to another and I found out that the Derrick Storm and Nikki Heat books actually exist! I’m not gonna lie. That made my damn day. (I do realise that I’m behind the times on this. I don’t like to look up stuff that I like on the internet for fear of spoilers. Yes, that’s how much I hate them.)

Nutshell blurb: Who cares??? This is a book written by Rick Castle!! (Told you I was going to fan-girl it up today.)

I was thrilled to pieces to start reading Heat Wave. It actually has Nathan Fillion’s Richard Castle’s picture in the back as the author. Such a meta moment for me.

So, as I was saying, I love Castle. The focus of the show is on the characters rather than the homicides or the procedure of solving crimes. My favourite interplay is that between Castle, Ryan and Esposito. So many giggles!

Anyway, as I read this book, I really felt as though it was written by Castle. The characters in the book were slightly more exaggerated but they, as well as some of the situations in the book, were recognisable from the show.

The story itself was fun and didn’t take itself too seriously. It read pretty much like an episode of the show.

Nikki Heat is fantastic. She’s a bit harder in the book and somewhat less vulnerable. As Castle said in one of the episodes, she’s tough, savvy and a little bit slutty. So, not entirely like Kate Beckett.

I love that these books exist and I feel that I must read the others. So much of the show is spent talking about these books and I love that this made the characters in the show feel a bit more real.

Perhaps it’s a gimmicky way to make money, but I don’t really care. I love it for what it is and I’ll go back for more.

 

Strain

In Book Reviews on January 22, 2014 at 6:00 am
Harper 2009

Harper 2009

Nutshell blurb: An ancient evil has been awakened and has made its way to New York City on a 777. Can it be stopped before the entire world is infected?

Sooooooo, vampire zombies. Yep. My hope for this book was that it would be a great shake-up of two widely written genres. It is an interesting take but it fell a bit short for me.

People get turned into vampire zombies (and just so we’re clear, this is my term for them) in the usual way one gets turned into either undead creature: by being bitten or having the blood sucked out of them. The USP in this instance is that the living are attacked by ‘blood worms’ that come from the infected person(s).

I will say that I enjoyed the story, for the most part. It was a bit of a slow burn, though. A lot of time was spent trying to build up tension which worked at first, but when I was halfway through the book I realised that I still didn’t really know what the heck was going on. I felt as though the pacing was off for this kind of story. It felt more like a murder mystery than an action-packed apocalyptic adventure. I’m sure that I’ve mentioned it a time or two, but I’m a woman of action. I want stuff to happen. I don’t need everything to be spelled out for me but I need to know that I’m on the road to discovery and that I’ll get there eventually.

The characters didn’t really do much for me, either. The only two that I remotely liked were the elderly holocaust survivor and the Hispanic gang banger. The holocaust survivor was particularly interesting because he had seen this evil in his youth when he was in a concentration camp. (I promise that the holocaust wasn’t caused by Nazi vampire zombies, though. So don’t worry; we’re never taken down that road.)

I know that this post seems to be marching steadily toward the negative, but I actually did like the book. It just didn’t live up to my expectations.

When I finished this book, I told my husband that I probably wouldn’t read the next one. But in true Buffy-style, I saw it in the library the other day and picked it up anyway. That’s just how I roll, people. We’ll see whether or not I feel inspired to do a post about it.

Mouse Guard: The Black Axe

In Book Reviews on January 19, 2014 at 11:09 am
Titan Books 2013

Titan Books 2013

This book was another Christmas gift from my beloved hubby. I bought the other two Mouse Guard books years ago and fell in love with them.

This is another case where a graphic novel has swept me away with its beauty and charm. I want more. I don’t want to live in a world where there are ONLY three Mouse Guard books.

Ok, that’s a little bit dramatic but these books are gorgeous. They feature mice, ferrets and other woodland creatures in their own little medieval setting. These mice are fierce. And honorable. And they carry swords.

As the title of this book suggests, this is the story of the Black Axe who features as a legend in the first two books. This is the story of how he came to be.

I found this story far deeper and more heart-rending than the first two and I felt a bit sad when I finished it. (Not just because I didn’t want it to end, although I did feel a bit sad because of that.) There was so much pain, sacrifice and loss in this story and the accompanying illustrations made it even more poignant.

I would say that if you’re going to read this, skip the introduction as there’s a spoiler in there. It kind of ticked me off to read that before starting the story. I hate spoilers with so much passion. Darn you, Terry Jones!

This book is amazing and one that I’ll read over and over again.

Absolutely On Purpose

In Book Reviews on January 15, 2014 at 6:00 am
Self-published by Stephanie Holland under Purple Moor Press 2013

Self-published by Stephanie Holland under Purple Moor Press 2013

To hell with the rules. This is a choose-your-own-adventure story. It’s your story.

I’ll start by letting you know that I received a free copy of this books in exchange for an honest review.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but I’m a big fan of self-help books. I am all about self-improvement in an effort to make myself a better person. Like any other genre, you have wade through a lot of crappy ones to find the gems but when you do, it makes it all worth it.

This book was really inspiring. The thing I liked about it the most was that it encourages deep introspection to help you figure out who you are and how you can find your purpose.

The aspect that I couldn’t relate to very well is that the author is inspired by yoga and so there is a lot of discussion and there are testimonials about yoga from people who embrace it as a lifestyle. I’ve taken some yoga classes and, even though I enjoyed it, I must say that I’ve never been inspired to change my life because of it. As a stick girl who is not at all bendy (Seriously, I can’t even touch my toes!) I find yoga to be somewhat stressful and taxing towards the end of a class. I do understand that it’s also a philosophy and more than just contorting one’s self into various tortuous positions, but, as I said, I can’t really relate to it.

However, it doesn’t matter about any of that as far as this book is concerned. Yoga was the motivating factor behind Ms. Holland deciding to change her life and write this book. It’s got a lot of great stuff in it. Stuff that I will refer back to from time to time.

I especially loved the workbook section, which makes up most of the book. This is where she encourages you to look really hard and honestly at yourself. I only read through the exercises the first time around but I intend to go back and do them properly later.

The exercises are fairly straight-forward in that she has you list specific things about your personality and your habits and to really analyse why you do and think the way that you do. It’s not really that easy, though. In order for it to be effective, you must be really honest with yourself and that can be extremely difficult. It’s sometimes hard to admit our flaws.

I’m looking forward to going back through this section and really answering the questions in detail.

I’m glad that I read this book. I found it inspiring and it gave me a bit of direction on my voyage of self-discovery.

Hannibal

In Book Reviews on January 12, 2014 at 6:00 am
Canongate Books Ltd 1995

Canongate Books Ltd 1995

Nutshell blurb: This is the story of Hannibal’s life from his childhood to his death featuring his all-consuming hatred of Rome.

I don’t know much about Hannibal so this was a pretty interesting read. I actually love reading historical novels about historical figures I know nothing about because it inspires me to want to read some non-fiction about them. I much prefer to read the fiction before the non-fiction otherwise I’ll sit there and think “that’s not really what happened”.

Be advised, if you intend to read this, that you shouldn’t do so if things aren’t going well in your life or if you’re taking anti-depressants as this book is brutal.

The thing I found most interesting is that it’s told in first-person and feels like a journal kept by Hannibal. He’s telling us about his life. We get really close to him and we’re in his head. He’s a very sympathetic character. However, he tells us of all of these horrible things he’s done or ordered to be done and it’s difficult to read sometimes. I really wanted to not like him but I couldn’t help it. So serious points to Mr. Leckie for making a cold-blooded barbarian likable.

To illustrate my point (SPOILER ALERT!!!), Hannibal couldn’t understand some of the main faults of human nature such as the need to get drunk or to have a lot of women or to overindulge in food. He thought that these things dulled the mind and made a person weak. He loved his wife and live monogamously with her (according to the story. Not sure about real life) and included her in his plans for battle. She actively helped him in the camp. She tended to his soldiers’ wounds and helped with cooking the meals. She traveled with him whilst being hugely pregnant on his trek through the alps to invade Rome. Their relationship was very loving and sweet.

Yet, the other side of him was dark and brutal. At one point, he lined up some Roman women who were pregnant and had their babies cut out in retribution for a heinous act that some Roman soldiers committed. He wanted to take down Rome and lost everything he had trying to do so.

A LOT of innocents were slaughtered in this book. Actually, a lot of people were slaughtered regardless of who they were. We never get really close to them as Hannibal narrates this story in a very detached way. It makes it slightly more bearable but it was still difficult to read in some places.

It didn’t make me want to put it down, however, which is usually what happens if a book gets a bit too much for me. The characters were really interesting and it was a compelling read. I enjoyed it, but I probably won’t pick up other books by this author.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

In Book Reviews on January 8, 2014 at 6:00 am
Marvel Worldwide Inc 2008

Marvel Worldwide Inc 2008

 

This book was one of my Christmas presents given to me by my wonderful hubby. I had seen it knocking around the comic book shop for quite some time but never got around to buying it.

Now I own it and it’s everything I hoped and dreamed it would be. I was drawn to it because of the gorgeous art style. It is sumptuous! It took me quite a few days to read it because each panel is a visual feast and, frankly, I didn’t want to finish it. It’s too beautiful to ever end!

I’ve actually never read the novel by L. Frank Baum and haven’t been in a terrible hurry to do so. Until now. I really want to pick it up as soon as possible.

There is an author’s note in the beginning about how this project came to exist and it turns out that Mr. Shanower is a hardcore Wizard of Oz fanboy from his early days. He based his adaptation on the novel which seems to be quite different to the film that we’ve all grown up with. Of course, it makes sense that he would do this but my only exposure to this story was the film and I had no idea that they were so different.

There are no ruby slippers (I suppose that red looks better in technicolor) and the flying monkeys are bound by a spell to an enchanted cap.

I loved everything about this book. It’ll definitely be one that I re-read several times and I’m also going to keep my eye out for some prints to hang on my walls. I’m looking forward to picking up the next installment.

Lies

In Book Reviews on January 5, 2014 at 11:59 am
Egmont 2010

Egmont 2010

This is the 3rd in the series by Michael Grant and I’m still really enjoying them. Since this is the third in the series, I’m not sure how spoilerific this post is going to be but please be advised that I will divulge a bit of information (at least from the previous books). It would be impossible to talk about this book without doing so. If you would like to know what I thought about the two previous books in the series, please see my posts for Gone and Hunger.

Nutshell blurb: Kids are still trapped under the barrier that separates them from the rest of the world. They’ve found a solution to the food problem they were having but have discovered a new range of problems. New factions have formed and kids are fighting against each other in a bid for survival.

It’s been interesting to see how these kids would deal with the loss of the authority figures in their lives and the decisions they make. Mr. Grant doesn’t shy away from heavy subjects, such as cannibalism, even though we’re dealing with kids.

The event which caused the barrier aka the FAYZ to be created also resulted in some of the kids receiving special powers. It has also caused the wildlife that was trapped with them to mutate creating even more peril for them. In the previous books, the kids were separated into two factions: the kids from Coates Academy and those from Perdido Beach. In this book, there’s been yet another schism between the kids with special powers and those with none. Some of the kids who don’t have powers are terrified of those who do and have declared war on them.

It’s quite an interesting situation because the kids with powers in Perdido Beach are trying to establish a system of government in an effort to return to some sense of normalcy. They lack the ability to enforce these laws and are constantly frustrated in their attempts to give everyone a stable living environment. But hey, most of them are under 15 . Whaddya expect?

One thing that made me a bit skeptical is the addition of new characters into the story. I would have thought that we would have met everyone who was noteworthy in the first couple of books since we’ve been trapped under a dome since then. As it turns out, there’s an island off the coast that was the home of a celebrity couple who adopted kids from several different countries (Brangelina, anyone?) and the kids have no idea what’s going on. They end up getting dragged into the mess eventually. I’m willing to suspend my disbelief on this subject. For now. In the last book, the kids on the mainland were starving and trying to find food. They all knew about this island and they have boats. Why wouldn’t it occur to them to travel to it? I’ll have to see how it plays out in the next book. Hopefully there will be a plausible explanation.

We also get more of a view on what caused the barrier to be created as well as a brief snapshot of what is potentially happening outside of it.

This was a very fun and exciting book to read and I did so quickly. I’m a bit leery series that go beyond three books. Sometimes I find that they have a tendency to drag things out that could have been said or explained in less time and space. So far, that doesn’t seem to be the case with these books so I’ll definitely pick up the next one when I see it in the library.

Labyrinth

In Book Reviews on January 1, 2014 at 6:00 am
Orion 2005

Orion 2005

Happy New Year to you! the holidays are almost officially over and it’s back to work for me tomorrow. It’s been a nice, relaxing break and I’m ready for 2014. I’m also ready to get back to blogging regularly.

I thought I’d start the new year with a post about a book that totally blew my socks off.

Nutshell blurb: This is the story of two women who live in two different time periods. They are connected by three books and a mysterious symbol.

Frankly, I don’t want to talk too much about the story. There’s a mystery involved and I don’t want to spoil it for you. Instead, I’ll tell you how it made me feel.

I’ve picked up quite a few historical books lately and as I’ve been reading them (or putting them down, as the case may be) I’ve become aware of two distinct styles of writing in them. I haven’t read enough to make any kind of scientific observations so bear in mind that these are merely my own observations.

Labyrinth is the type that I love. Rich descriptions of lush settings. Every word serves to paint a gorgeous picture of the world and the characters within. The words are carefully chosen and it almost seems like an epic poem. It reminds me of how I felt when I read the Iliad or the Odyssey. I felt as though I was reading a grand and sweeping legend yet at the same time I felt really close to the characters.

It’s kind of funny because I almost put this book down after reading a few pages. The prologue is written in the present tense and I can’t emphasise how much that winds me up. However, something happened within that prologue that caught my attention and I was hooked. Thank goodness I persevered! I was pleased to find that the rest of the book (except for the epilogue) was written in the past-tense. It’s very rare that I’ll keep reading a book that’s in the present tense. It’s completely off-putting.

Just. No.

The other type of historical fiction that I’ve been reading (and putting down) is the ultra-realistic type. It’s an interesting discovery to make as it gives me a bit more scope for my own writing. It’s good to read other people’s writing and analyse all of the things that I like about it but equally, it’s helpful for me to realise what it is that I don’t like.

These other types of historical fiction are gritty and raw. They are very much concerned with realism and accuracy. It seems as though they are trying to paint the world as it really was. This isn’t a bad thing, but it’s definitely a matter of preference.

I’ve grown to realise that I don’t actually care about realism in fiction. If I want realism, I’ll read non-fiction. I actually prefer it when an author runs with his or her poetic licence.

I find that realistic historical fiction (and now the I’m thinking about it, any kind of fiction) is far more brutal than I care for. I don’t mean brutal in terms of violence. If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time you’ll know that I’m not at all squeamish. I mean brutal in the sense that everything is laid out dispassionately for the reader to absorb. Murder, rape, pillaging, slavery, torture. It’s all there and it’s told in such a way that it leaves very little to the imagination.

The latest book to hit my ‘did-not-finish’ shelf took place in Ancient Greece and there was a scene where some men and a boy were traveling in a boat. As some marauders approached in a different boat, the little boy kissed his dad and his uncles, smiled, jumped overboard and drowned. It was obviously a prearrangement that they had so that the boy wouldn’t be captured and have bad things happen to him. The boy is a throw-away character (he’s not even named) but he still haunts me even though I put the book down days ago. He’s just one of many throw-away characters that horrible things happen to and I only made it to page 42!

I think that the author was trying to show us what life was realistically like back in those days, but it didn’t work for me. The story lacked grace and poetry. Realism doesn’t really work for me. I want things to feel authentic but that doesn’t mean that they have to be authentic.

I’m not criticising these realistic types of books. They just aren’t for me. I’m not sure if that makes sense or not. It totally does in my head.

Ms. Mosse gave me a sense of authenticity in her story. She clearly did her research, but more importantly (to me, anyway) she made it feel epic and poetic. She didn’t shy away from violence or peril but it didn’t feel as though she was going for shock value. Everything had a place in the story.

I absolutely, unequivocably loved this book and am looking forward to reading more of her work.

%d bloggers like this: