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Ancestor

In Book Reviews on August 31, 2014 at 6:00 am
Hodder & Stoughton 2010

Hodder & Stoughton 2010

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started reading this book. This seems to be happening to me quite a lot recently. I must be on auto-pilot when I’m in the library these days. I’m a lot more careful when I’m buying books. Well, obviously. I suppose it’s different when you’re actually spending money. Anyway, the claw marks on the front cover made me think that it was a werewolf book. I’m not sure what it is with me and werewolves lately. I don’t think that I’ve ever read a book that featured them so maybe this is my brain’s way of telling me that I need to. Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that this book isn’t about werewolves. It’s about something much worse.

Cows.

Nutshell blurb: So there’s this island in the Great Lakes and there are these scientists who are using DNA from extinct species to create a new species to be used as organ donors. Of course, it’s all going to go horribly wrong.

It’s such a wonderful feeling to pick up a book without knowing anything about it only to have it blow you away. This was one of those books that made me want to stay on the tube to the end of the line just so that I wouldn’t have to stop reading. (I would like to state for the record, that I have never been late to work as a result of reading a book even though I’ve been sorely tempted on many occasions. *sigh* It’s hard being conscientious.)

Ok, so I know you’re wondering about the cows. These scientists have created a new species from old DNA of something that was wiped out millions of years ago. Obviously, they needed an animal in which to incubate the tiny widdle eggs and so they chose cows. As it turns out, a mistake was made in the creation of these things and they turned out to be waaaaaaay bigger at birth than they were supposed to be. Like 200 pounds at birth. If you can imagine, this would make it exceptionally difficult when it came to giving birth, even for some big ‘ol cows. I’m not going to go into detail. It’s possible that you could be eating a hamburger while you’re reading this and I don’t want to put you off your meal.

I’ll just say that it’s pretty grim.

So, you’ve got these huge animals that are hungry as well as a couple of homicidal maniacs loose on the island (there are a few branches to this story) and it makes for really tense reading. It was quite exciting and I really want to read some more of Mr. Sigler’s work.

Runemarks

In Book Reviews on August 27, 2014 at 6:00 am
Doubleday 2007

Doubleday 2007

Seven o’clock on a Monday morning, five hundred years after the End of the World, and goblins had been at the cellar again.

I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect when I picked up this book. I must say that my thought process wasn’t at it’s peak when I saw this in the library. I think that it was something like “Ooh, cool cover. A story to do with runes. Mine.” Upon looking at it further when I got it home (thought process still not really engaged) I thought something like “Oh, there are wolves on the front. Is this a werewolf book?” Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t not read a book just because it has werewolves in it, but I don’t tend to gravitate towards them.

So anyway, then I had a flash of inspiration and actually read the back. Imagine my surprise when I found out that it was a book based on Norse mythology!

Nutshell blurb: Maddy Smith was born with a runemark on her hand. She learns that this mark means that she has magical powers and she goes on a fantastic quest and discovers what this power really means.

I also didn’t realise that this book was a YA book when I picked it up. But don’t let that deter you, adult peeps, because it was super fun.

Ms. Harris (who also wrote Chocolat) has some mad world-building skillz and this made the story really engaging. Her writing is witty and, well, anything that makes me giggle can only be a good thing.

At the beginning of the book, there is a list of characters as you would have in a play and I knew that it was going to be fun when I saw the list of Norse gods who all had some reason to dislike Loki. The gods had great personalities and all of them genuinely had reasons to hate Loki.

He can't be all bad, can he? He's got a book!

He can’t be all bad, can he? He’s got a book!

I always enjoy learning about the different rules that authors give their worlds and the magic within them. In this book, the glam that a person can cast runs out after a period of time. Low stamina, I guess. It can be replaced by eating and sleeping. These details make a story much more interesting and it inspires me to pay attention to the details in my own writing.

This book has lots of adventure and lots of action. I loved it. I’m quite intrigued by her style of writing and would like to pick up more of her books.

Who Fears Death

In Book Reviews on August 24, 2014 at 6:00 am
DAW Books 2010

DAW Books 2010

I’ll start off by saying that this book is not for the faint-hearted. It was both beautiful and terrifying and it took me a few days to get over reading it.

Nutshell blurb: Onyesonwu is Ewu – a product of rape as a form of ethnic cleansing. Her name means ‘Who Fears Death’ and she discovers that she has magical abilities. This is the story of her journey to find the person who is trying to murder her.

There are some heavy subjects in this book. Ones that certainly shouldn’t be ignored but are very difficult to read.

Like many women, the threat of rape is something that terrifies me. I can read books where people are dismembered horribly or eaten by zombies, but this is one subject I really have a difficult time reading about. The story begins with Onyesonwu as an adult and since it was her mom that was raped, I kind of thought that we would get away without reading about it in detail. Except that there are these things in books called flashbacks. Yeah.

It would have been cowardly for Ms. Okorafor to not write about it but it still made me squeamish.

The topic of female circumcision plays heavily in the story as well.

Why did I keep reading it? you might ask.

It’s a damn good book, is why. The writing is gorgeous and the characters are interesting. I didn’t connect as well as I’d like with the main character. She was moody, willful and sometimes not very nice but I think that the same could probably be said about me sometimes. She had a difficult time growing up as Ewu so I imagine that would have an effect on someone’s personality.

It was also a different experience for me reading about issues in a novel that I’ve only ever read about in the news. I don’t live in fear of soldiers invading my village and harming me nor is there any threat of FGM for me. Reading about these topics, even though it’s fiction, gave me some frame of reference for them. What we read in the news is very sterile with emotion taken out of it. To feel the terror from a character’s point of view who has had to deal with these issues is quite powerful. It makes it seem more real when I think that women in the world are actually going through these things and that it’s just part of their lives.

The story takes place in a futuristic Africa. The first image that actually popped into my head when I read that it was a dystopian story that takes place in a desert is this:

Tina Turner looking amazing in the desert. (Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.)

Let’s take a moment to appreciate Tina Turner looking amazing in the desert. (Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.)

 

It couldn’t be more different, though. There are some references to recording devices and computers but there’s also magic involved. Other than that, it didn’t feel very futuristic. I’m not complaining, though. It was unlike anything I’ve ever read and I was mesmerised.

As I mentioned, Onyesonwu had to get used to having magical powers. One of her abilities was that she could shapeshift. She was able to turn herself into different animals and birds. When she changed shape, she took on the characteristics of the animal that she became. I thought that was a nice touch and it was these types of details that made this story so enjoyable for me.

The ending felt a bit rushed, but other than that I absolutely loved it. I’m not sure about its re-readability factor, but it was an amazing experience.

The Silence of Ghosts

In Book Reviews on August 20, 2014 at 6:00 am
Contstable & Robinson Ltd 2013

Constable & Robinson Ltd 2013

Nutshell blurb: Dominic Lancaster was injured during World War 2. He returns to London and takes his 10 year old sister, Octavia, to the family house in theLake District to avoid the Blitz.

I haven’t read a ghost story in a while. I’m not actually sure that I’ve ever actually talked about one on my blog until now.

This was a very short book so it didn’t take too long to read. It’s described as “A mesmerizing tale of terror set during the Second World War”. I’m not sure about the terror part, but it was very intriguing.

The things I liked about it:

There were a few characters I really liked. Octavia was interesting. She was deaf, but she could hear the voices of the children who haunted the house they were staying in. Rose was also interesting. She was the nurse that made house visits to take care of Dominic as he was injured.

The writing was in journal format which is something that I like. It gave me a sense of immediacy and peril.

Things I didn’t like about it:

The main character. He was really soppy. “Poor me. I’m injured. What woman will ever want a man like me? Blah blah blah.” I don’t have time for these types of characters. It’s fine if it’s a secondary character but not the main one. There’s one point where he’s like “OMG there are strange noises upstairs. Nursey, would you please go up and check it out? My crutches won’t allow me to climb the stairs.” I really wanted to slap him at this point. What’s she meant to do if there was an intruder upstairs? What he should have said was “Right, get your things. We’re going to a hotel.”. So, there were a few things like that that didn’t really ring true to me.

Also, the ending wasn’t very satisfying. I won’t spoil it for you in case you’re curious enough to read it, but it left me scratching my head somewhat. And it was over really quickly. I barely had time to blink and I had reached the end.

Overall, I liked the story, but I don’t think that it’s very memorable and it certainly wasn’t terrifying. It had the potential to be, but I think that a few tricks were missed.

Eat Pretty

In Book Reviews on August 17, 2014 at 6:00 am
Chronicle Books LLC 2014

Chronicle Books LLC 2014

 

This is a bit of a departure from my usual fare of science fiction, fantasy and horror. Okay, it’s a complete departure actually. I picked up this book during a lunch hour foray into Urban Outfitters with some colleagues.

Yep, you read that right. I got this book from a clothes store. Because if there are books in a shop, I will find them. Oh yes. I will.

Anyway, I picked it up and flicked through the pages and it looked really interesting.

But before I talk about the book, here’s a little bit of back story on my weight.

I’ve always been skinny. I come from a family of skinny genes and this caused me a lot of grief because I used to get picked on for it. A lot. Chicken legs, string bean, bean pole… These were my nicknames. Because kids suck.

The upside to this was that I could eat ANYTHING. And I frequently did. People would say rude things to me like “Girl, I just want to feed you a cheeseburger” and I was like “Bitch, please. I’ve just eaten two double quarter pounders with large fries and a large coke. And about 13 cupcakes, so step off.” I was so tiny that I had to get a weight waiver when I joined the Air Force because I only weighed 94 pounds. It was in my late teens and my early twenties that I finally felt vindicated for all of the hassle that I got in school because of my weight. I finally didn’t look sickly.

But, because I never learned to control my eating habits I started gaining weight in my late twenties/early thirties. I could pack away a large pizza by myself like a pro. Unfortunately, it was during that time that I gained 15 pounds or so. Every year since then, I see a bit more squishiness added to my frame and I don’t really like it. Where is the lithe girl with the tiny waist and only one chin? She’s gone, folks. Long gone.

Don’t get me wrong. There is no way that I could be described as fat or even chunky. But as I get older I realise that I don’t take care of myself as well as I should so when I saw this book, I jumped on it.

The thing I like about it is that it tells you, in detail, about foods to eat to keep you pretty and it tells you why. Because guess what. There’s science behind it! I love reading about the different vitamins in various fruits and vegetables and what they do for you. Yes, I can find these things on the internet, but it’s much more handy to have it here at my fingertips to read as and when.

There’s a section for each season and what you should be eating and focusing on during that time. There are also some healthy recipes for each season.

The book talks about foods that are beauty betrayers (like cooked meat and sugary stuff) and how they mess up the equilibrium in our bodies.

I’m not the kind of person that can implement all of the suggestions in this book. I am a carnivore to the core of my being. I liked meat. Rawr! And I’m not willing to give up junk food. I can happily dive into a bag of nacho cheese Doritos and don’t even get me started on red velvet cupcakes. But I’m more aware of the choices I make when choosing what to eat now. I’ve been eating more vegetables and cutting back on junk food. I don’t feel the need to have it every day. But if I do decide to eat some Oreos, I’m going to do it guilt free.

The decision to change things about oneself is a personal one. But it’s great to have the facts at hand so that I can make informed choices. That is why I liked this book.

The Wall

In Book Reviews on August 13, 2014 at 6:00 am
Quartet Books Limited 2013

Quartet Books Limited 2013 (Originally published in Germany in 1968)

I know too that I, like every living thing, will have to die some day, but my hands, my feet and my guts still don’t know it, which is why death seems so unreal.

Nutshell blurb: A woman is vacationing in the countryside when an invisible wall appears and traps her within it.

I’ve read Under the Dome by Stephen King and I can’t help but wonder if he ever read this book before writing his. There are some minor similarities as both are tales of survival however, Mr. King’s book features a town of people who are cut off from the rest of society and Ms. Haushofer’s story is about a woman who tries to survive and has only animals to keep her company. They are quite different even though they have the same theme.

This book is relatively short but it took me a long time to read it. I really had trouble with the pacing at first. It crawls. The more I thought about it, though, the more I wondered why I need stuff to happen so quickly. I had to make myself slow down and appreciate the drama of this book. It’s in journal format (which I really like) however, there are no headings, chapters or breaks between paragraphs to give one room to breathe. I had a really difficult time with this format at first and I wondered if I was going to be able to make it through the entire book.

The more I thought about it, the more I realised that this was my problem and not the book’s. I read so quickly and I like things to happen, but I think that sometimes I need to slooooooow down and enjoy the ride. Once I did that, I was able to fully appreciate this book.

Basically, the entire book is about what’s going on in this woman’s head as she tries to make sense of her situation and survive in it. Her lack of interaction with any other human leads her to think about heavy subjects like death and the meaning of life. She also looks back on her previous life before the wall and wondered why she was so preoccupied with things that didn’t matter.

Sometimes I’m struck by how important it once was  not to be five minutes late. An awful lot of people I knew seemed to see their watches as little idols, and that always struck me as sensible. If you’re already living in slavery, it’s a good idea to keep to the rules and not put your master in a bad humour.

Interesting stuff.

In the end, I really enjoyed this book. I’m not sure about it’s re-readability factor, but I’m glad I read it. I’m ready to watch the film now.

Nefertiti

In Book Reviews on August 10, 2014 at 6:00 am
Quercus 2007

Quercus 2007

Nutshell blurb: Nefertiti marries the pharaoh Amunhotep (who later changes his name to Akhenaten when he founds a new religion) and this is the story of their life together.

I love reading stories of Egyptian history. (Both fiction and non-fiction.) Reading these stories conjures up vibrant images of what people lived like back then. It’s both mysterious and romantic. I’ve always had a particular interest in Egyptian mythology and it was these stories that made me want to be an archaeologist when I was a kid. (Well, those and the Indiana Jones films, if I’m honest.) My dreams died a horrible death with the thought that by the time I was old enough to actually become an archaeologist, everything, especially all of the Egyptian stuff, would have been unearthed/discovered by then. So what was the point? Imagine my chagrin upon recently reading of the new things that have been found during in Egypt during this decade. *sigh* I was such a dumb kid…

Anyway, back to the book. This story is told from the point of view of Nefertiti’s sister, Mutnodjmet, as Nefertiti ascends the throne and insinuates herself as the chief wife of Akhenaten. Akhenaten founds a new religion that puts aside all of the other gods and demands the worship of Aten only. As you can imagine, this was upsetting to many people, as it would be if someone was messing with their religion. He upsets the apple cart further by ousting the priests and taking their money away from them. This is considered heresy and the result was that he was terrified of being assassinated.

The thing that I didn’t like about this book was the portrayal of Nefertiti. She is spoiled, self-centred, willful and manipulative. In fact, I kind of hated her. It made me wonder what she was really like. I love the bust of Nefertiti. It’s absolutely gorgeous and I want to believe only good things about her. It’s a bit simplistic to think that just because someone is beautiful in a sculpture, she must have been a beautiful person in life. I’m sure that Michelle Moran did her research and had reasons for portraying her this way and it worked in the story. But frankly, I wanted to slap Nefertiti.

Nefertiti pic

I really liked Mutnodjmet and could relate to her. She was portrayed as being very humble and loyal even though she was always shunted to the side in favour of her sister. The book also tells us of Tutankhamen’s beginning. The story is beautiful and well told. The writing is gorgeous. Even though I didn’t really like how Nefertiti was portrayed, I really loved this story and I’m looking forward to reading more of Michelle Moran’s work. This has also inspired me to read more works of non-fiction about Egyptian history.

 

 

 

The Bat

In Book Reviews on August 6, 2014 at 6:00 am
Vintage 2013

Vintage 2013

This is the first Harry Hole novel. I really enjoyed The Redbreast so I thought I would check out some more books by this author. I rarely read books out of order. If I pick one up and find out that it is not the first in a series I usually put it down. I decided to read The Redbreast, though, because I had an idea that it might not matter if I read them out of order.

Thank God I did.

If I had read this book first, I wouldn’t have been inspired to read any of his others.

Don’t get me wrong; I liked this book. Mostly. I wouldn’t do a blog post about it if I didn’t like it (unless it offended me) but, wow. This book was all over the road at points.

Nutshell blurb: A Norwegian girl is killed in Sydney, Australia. Harry Hole travels there to lend a hand in solving the murder.

It starts out well enough. Harry gets there and the Sydney police aren’t thrilled about his presence. He has an aboriginal police officer called Andrew assigned to him and they go about questioning people and looking for answers.

Then a little more than a third of the way into the book some crazy stuff starts to happen. Drug use within the police department, prostitutes, the main character goes completely off the rails, cross-dressers, people chopped up into little bits. There’s even a great white shark involved. Pretty much ALL THE THINGS! There were a few moments when I looked like this:

Jackie-Chan-Meme-Template

 

Seriously. I had no idea what was going on.

Also, I really liked Harry in The Redbreast, but not so much in this book. He was quite the douche-nozzle, in my opinion. But not in a tortured anti-hero kind of way. He was just a jerk.

The story managed to pull itself together by the end, but I still found the end to be somewhat dissatisfying.

Considering how good The Redbreast was, it will be interesting to read his other books to see Mr. Nesbo’s growth as an author.

The Road to Bedlam

In Book Reviews on August 3, 2014 at 6:00 am
Angry Robot 2010

Angry Robot 2010

This is the second book in The Courts of the Feyre series. The first one is Sixty-One Nails. Feel free to click on the link to read my thoughts about it.

Nutshell blurb: Niall Petersen has just received word that his daughter has been involved in an accident and he has to learn how to deal with her death as well as his new role within the Court of the Feyre.

This book is definitely better than the first one. I really liked Sixty-One Nails, but, as I mentioned in my post on that book, there was a lot of exposition which is a bit off-putting. It’s a tricky thing as an author, I think, trying to weave the rules of your world into the story rather than just telling us what you want us to know. We found out about the rules in the first one so this book is all about the action. And there’s a lot of action.

One of the things that I really liked about the first book is that it took place predominantly in London. I love books that describe the city in which I live. Especially an urban fantasy novel. When I see those places in my travels throughout the city, it makes me wonder if there is more going on than just what I can see. It makes my surroundings seem a bit magical and mysterious. The Road to Bedlam takes us out of London as we travel with the main character to solve a mystery involving some missing women. This mystery is a bit of a tangent from the main story but the court needed to get Niall out of the way because he had the potential to interfere with their politics. It’s still a great story, but I did miss London a bit.

Blackbird is pregnant and therefore cannot use magic lest she hurt her unborn child. It’s a bit frustrating that she has a smaller part in this story as I like her but being pregnant and unable to use magic doesn’t make her helpless in any way. She’s really resourceful and can hold her own, which is something that I really like. I just would have liked for there to be more of her in the story.

As I mentioned earlier in this post, there is a lot of action. Niall has been going through combat training and has gone from a soft office worker to a sword wielding badass. (As an office worker, this appeals to me greatly.) He’s much more comfortable with himself and his abilities and uses them often.

I really liked this book. The world is inventive and unique and the characters are interesting. I’ve never read anything quite like this and I’ll definitely pick up the third book, Strangeness and Charm.

 

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