Posts Tagged ‘2009’

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.




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.

Ruso and the Demented Doctor

In Book Reviews on December 18, 2013 at 6:00 am
Penguin Books 2009

Penguin Books 2009

Hello, my dears! I’m very much aware that it’s been a couple of weeks since I did a post. Apologies for that. I’ve had a bad case of the winter blahs. You know it’s bad when it takes me two weeks to finish a 463 page book. I just felt really burnt out and listless. I’ve started my holiday already, though, and am already starting to feel refreshed. And I’ve finally finished a book, so woo!

Nutshell blurb: This is a crime novel set in Roman-occupied Britain. Gaius Petreius Ruso is a Roman medicus stationed in Britain who haplessly ends up solving murders.

This is the second book in the series and I’ve gotta say, I’m not really feeling these books. I read the first one in the series earlier this year and when I looked it up on my Goodreads shelf, I noticed that I didn’t give it a rating. I enjoyed both of them, yet I came away feeling strangely unsatisfied.

In this book, Ruso takes his slave girl, Tilla, to a fort up north that is near her family. Just before they arrive, someone is murdered and mystery lands right in the doctor’s lap.

As you might know by now, the stories I love the most are the ones that are character driven. This is why I don’t read a lot of crime stories. I’ve found that in the (admittedly few) crime novels I’ve read that most of the effort seems to go into fleshing out the plot and the details that surround whatever mystery we’re dealing with, leaving the characters feeling a bit shallow or thin. I feel the same way about crime tv shows as well. I particularly love NCIS, Castle and Law and Order as they delve into the relationships and personalities of the people involved rather than just the crimes.

I think that this is perhaps why these stories aren’t fulfilling all of my storytelling needs. I really want to like these books more than I do, which is why I picked up the second one. I mean, who wouldn’t want to read a crime story placed in Roman Britain? I can’t fault Ms. Downie’s storytelling abilities. She has a whimsical style that also makes me want to like these books more. There’s just something missing.

Ruso isn’t the best leading character. He is portrayed as an old fuddy-duddy but I think that he’s meant to be in his 20s. I don’t know if his age was ever mentioned. I picture him as an intensely boring middle-aged man in these books. (Let’s be clear that I don’t think that middle-aged men are boring. People of any age can be incredibly dull and this is just how I picture this character.) He doesn’t seem to care about much but just muddles through his life. Tilla, his slave girl, isn’t much better. I’m just not convinced by their interactions with each other and I don’t find either of them sympathetic at all.

I would speculate that my winter blahs might be partially responsible for my reaction to this book except that I read the other one at the beginning of this year and had the exact same reaction to it.

It’s a pretty fun read if you don’t pay too much attention to the characters but my overall reaction to this book is: Meh.

Raven: Blood Eye

In Book Reviews on November 20, 2013 at 6:00 am
Transworld Publishers 2009

Transworld Publishers 2009

Nutshell blurb: Osric has been living in Abbotsend for two years. He has no idea where he came from. One of his eyes is blood-red and he’s looked upon by the villagers as the spawn of Satan. Some Norsemen come along, sack his village and take him prisoner. They also rename him Raven. What follows is his story as he accepts his fate with the Norsemen.

I was debating whether or not to write a post about this book. My reaction to it was ‘meh’ through most of it until about three quarters into it when it turned into a blinding, seething hatred. Unfortunately, this book has invoked my ire and therefore must pay for the complete waste of my time.

Please be advised that this post will be super-duper spoilerific.

Right, so the main problem that I had with this book before what we shall henceforth call “The Incident” is that the characters weren’t likable at all. “But they’re vikings, Buffy. Of course they weren’t likable,” you might be saying. And you would be right to do so.

However, I only agree with that to an extent and say that we have to be able to relate to some of the characters in the book. They don’t necessarily have to be likable. I’m thinking about The Book of Human Skin by Michelle Lovric. The main character was evil incarnate but you knew that he was. It wasn’t sugar-coated. He did horrible things and it was amazingly chilling.

The problem with this story is that by the end of it we were meant to think of the main character as being noble and heroic but I found that he was pretty much the opposite of that. He started out being extremely wishy-washy and annoying. He didn’t know who he was, which is a fair point, but he was so tedious about it. Once he was captured by the Norsemen, things got worse. He cringed at a lot of the things that they did but at the same time he idolised them. It seemed to me like a classic case of peer pressure and going against your nature in order to fit in. As someone who constantly swims against the tide, this concept does not impress me. By the end of the book, he classified himself as a Norseman but there was no growth in his character. In fact, he got worse as the book went on. I wouldn’t have actually thought that was possible.

The one good thing about the book was that there was a strong female character in it. Unfortunately, she doesn’t show up until the last quarter of the book. Then the main character falls in love with her and he turns super creepy.

But let’s talk about “The Incident” and how Mr. Kristian broke my trust.

So, three quarters of the way into the book, the Norsemen and our ‘hero’ attack a fortress and take it. Once they’ve captured it, they celebrate. One of his mates drags a sixteen year old girl to him and tells him to take her and have fun. You see where this is going, right?

But of course, he’s not going to do it, right?  Heroes don’t do that kind of thing, especially that far into a book and especially after he’s just fallen in love with a different chick. RIGHT??

Well, guess what. He totally does.

But don’t worry because after he rapes her he totally feels bad about it. So obviously that makes it ok. Also, she was a no-name character that we don’t hear from ever again. So that makes it all better.

It’s such a cliche to say that I almost threw this book across the room…but I almost threw this book across the room.

Yes, I realise that vikings raped and pillaged across all the land but in terms of storytelling this doesn’t work for me. If you’re going to paint your main character as being heroic, he has to grow throughout the book. I don’t care what part of history we’re in.

The only reason I read that far was because the writing was excellent and I though that the story would improve as I went along. I was horribly wrong. The characters all sucked. (Except for the really cool, strong chick.)

There was an interview with the author at the end of the book and he mentions that he doesn’t plan his writing. He just comes up with it as he goes. I think  that some people can get away with it but in this book his lack of planning was evident. The story was all over the place and seemed to have no real purpose.

It has a pretty good rating on Goodreads which is probably because the writing is so good. Mr. Kristian definitely has talent.

However, I feel that he has betrayed me. He made his main character commit this heinous act FOR NO GOOD REASON! It didn’t serve the story in any way.

Frankly, this book pissed me off and I shan’t be reading any more from this author.

Sixty-One Nails

In Book Reviews on October 20, 2013 at 6:00 am
Sixty-One Nails

Angry Robot 2009

The tiny motes left hiding there were consumed almost incidentally as the flood of dark power swept through the the debris, the dark-spore sparking tiny flares in the roiling darkness as it was consumed. In those flares, I heard the echoes of distant screams as they boiled away.

It made me smile.

Nutshell blurb: Niall Peterson collapses on the London Underground and is revived by a woman who goes by the name of Blackbird. She is one of the Feyre and he must help her ensure that an ancient ritual is performed in order to prevent all of humankind from being enslaved by the Untainted.

I’m following Ben Aaronovitch on Goodreads and I saw that he read this book and gave it 5 stars so I thought I’d check it out. I can totally see why he did. This was an engaging read that kept me gripped. Anything that keeps me reading during times when I’m not meant to be doing so can only be a good thing.

There were a couple of things that kept me from giving it 5 stars (I gave it 4). I felt like there was a lot of exposition in this story. One character in the book gave us complete histories of the Feyre and various aspects of this other world and I just felt that it happened way too often. Sometimes it felt as if this woman was talking through the entire book and it got a bit tiresome.

I guess the question is: how do you convey the finer points of your world to your readers without straight out explaining every detail? (If you know, please tell me because I’m world-building in my own writing.)

There was another point that made me scratch my head. When Niall and Blackbird first met, she gave him the name Rabbit because names have power and the Feyre and Untainted don’t give out their names for fear of giving others an advantage over them. However, throughout the book she constantly calls him by his given name but it never really seemed to have any consequences.

Those were a couple of things that bothered me. Nothing too earth-shaking.

On to what I liked.

The hidden world and the folklore of the Feyre and Untainted were really well thought out and completely absorbing. It is really rich in detail which is hugely appealing. The characters are interesting and believable. I loved that the main character is a forty-two year old man with an ex-wife and daughter.

What I really loved is that it’s set in London. As with Moon Over Soho (if you haven’t read my post about it, you can find it here) I totally dig the mixture of fantasy with modern day London. There were so many places that I ‘recognised’. The story starts on the District Line which I take every day to work. I love reading about various places and picturing where they are in my head. It adds an extra level of detail that makes it even more charming.

Definitely a great read. Unfortunately, Goodreads doesn’t allow 1/2 stars or I would have given it 4 1/2. I’ll just have to settle for giving it 4 1/2 stars in my head.

I’ll certainly be keeping an eye out for the second book.

Under the Dome

In Book Reviews on October 2, 2013 at 9:59 pm
Under the Dome

Hodder & Stoughton 2009

Whoa. 877 pages, people. 877.

Before I share with you my thoughts on this book, I want to take a moment to explain to you my relationship with Stephen King.

I was a big fan of his back when I was a teenager. He writes the kind of books my parents would hate. The only books they ever told me that I couldn’t read when I was that age were romance books, but I think that if they had ever read a Stephen King novel they would have taken them right away from me. That made me like the books even more. (Yes, I was a horrible teenager. Who wasn’t?)

Anyway, they fulfilled my childish need for rebellion. There’s a scene in IT where some kids try to light their farts and I remember thinking ‘People write about this stuff in books?’. *Snicker, snort* The stories were good too, but I liked that Mr. King told it like it was.

Once I left my teenage years behind, I stopped reading his books. It wasn’t any kind of conscious decision. I just read other stuff. And then last year I decided that I needed to get back to reading some of his work and I picked up the first book of the Dark Tower series. I was dismayed to find that I didn’t like it at all. I don’t know what it was but I just didn’t connect with the characters. That’s when I had my big revelation.

I’ve outgrown Stephen King.

So, I read a review of Under the Dome from one of the blogs I’m following and for the life of me I can’t remember which one of you it is because it was a while ago. I remember that the person who wrote the post did an embroidery of a quote from the book which said “God bless you, but I don’t give a shit”. (Please identify yourself so that I can give you some credit.) Anyway, it made me rethink my stance on his work. I decided to read the book based on her review.

To my intense delight I found out that I haven’t outgrown Stephen King at all! So forgive me, Mr. King. Forgive me for doubting your literary prowess and writing it off as fodder for my teenage rebellion.

Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, I can move on with what I thought of the book.

Nutshell blurb: A mysterious dome has descended around the town of Chester’s Mill cutting the people inside off from the people outside. No one knows how it came to be there or how to make it go away. The story follows the inhabitants of this dome and how they cope with being isolated.

Boy, what a cast. I think that one of the things that makes Stephen King’s books so scary is that his characters are so real. Characterisation is certainly the most important aspect to me when reading a book. I’ve just put down a different book (that shall not be named) because the characters didn’t spark my interest at all. Mr. King’s characters could easily be friends, family, neighbours, you or me and what’s terrifying is when he puts those ordinary people into hair-raising situations and lets them stew. Or die. Horribly.

It was kind of good that this book was so long because I needed periodic breaks from it. It is packed with action from page 1 to page 877 and it left me breathless at times. One would think that a book that long would have lulls in it but one would be oh so very wrong. It just never stopped. And I loved that.

The dialogue in his books is also always amazing and makes me giggle a bit. It’s colourful, brutal and sometimes quaint. I think that this passage is my favourite:

They were coming up on the hospital now. Stewart saw a gray Ford Taurus pulling out of Catherine Russell.

‘Hey, that’s Dr Rusty,’ Fern said. ‘Bet he’ll be glad to get this stuff. Give im a toot, Stewie.’

Stewart gave im a toot.

In between reading sessions, I was thinking about his other books that I’ve read. (Needful Things is one of my favourites.) None of his characters are alike, that I know of, anyway. I don’t feel like I recognise them from his other books. I’m blown away by the sheer volume of ideas the man has. I know that I’m gushing. I can’t help it. He’s the master.

My one complaint (and it’s a niggling one) is that he used a character from a different author ‘off-screen’ in the story. I’m not a big fan of that. In this book, one of the police officers was once in the army and reported to Jack Reacher. I don’t mind references to characters, songs, films or whatever. I just don’t like it when a character from a different, unrelated story is represented as a character in a book. It’s a personal preference, but it kind of feels like cheating. If it had been by a newly published author, I would have really thought about whether or not I wanted to press on with the story. At the very least there would have been some heavy eye-rolling. But it’s Stephen King so I guess he can get away with it.

I’m sure he’ll be thrilled to have my dispensation.

Anyway, if you can’t tell from my gushing, I loved this book. It made me gasp out loud several times on the train, which is always the sign of a good book. I’ve actually just finished it and now I feel drained. Also the sign of a good book.

It’s certainly not for the faint of heart.


In Book Reviews on September 11, 2013 at 6:43 am


First published in the USA 2009 by HarperTeen
First published in Great Britain 2010 by Egmont UK Limited

Nutshell blurb: The adults have all disappeared leaving everyone under the age of 15 behind. The kids who survived the first book now face a food shortage. They also have to contend with the fact that some of them are developing strange powers.

This is the second book in this series (you can read my thoughts on the first one here).

The first book deals with the fact that everyone over the age of 15 had disappeared leaving kids behind in a small town in California. Being kids with no adult supervision, they made the mistake of not planning ahead with their food. They ate all of the candy/ice cream/junk food and let a lot of fruit/vegetables/meat go to waste.

In this book, those consequences kick in as they now have to ration what they have left. The kids that are left are separated into two factions; those who live in Perdido Beach and those who live in Coates Academy. These factions do not get along and are being broken down further into kids who have strange mutant powers against those who don’t. Throw a nuclear power plant and some mutating animals/insects into the mix and you’ve got a really exciting story filled with peril and action.

This series is YA and it recommends that the reader be 12+ due to “scenes of cruelty and some violence” but that doesn’t mean that it’s a light and comfortable story for adults. These kids deal with some heavy problems, only without the benefit of adult supervision.

One of the problems is that the town is being run by a 15 year old. He’s managing over 100 kids who have no discipline and no desire to harvest food that is growing in the surrounding area. Some of the kids get into alcohol or drugs and one of the girls has an eating disorder even though they are on the verge of starvation.

This book also comes closer to explaining why it all started.

I love this series. As I’ve mentioned in other posts, I find it fascinating to imagine how people would survive in a post-apocalyptic world with limited resources. It’s especially interesting to imagine how kids would survive. In this book, they don’t always make the right decisions (even the main characters) but they do the best they can. Some of them try to do things to give their world some semblance of normality, such as creating currency.

There is a lot of action and even though it’s YA, Mr. Grant doesn’t pull punches. People get hurt. People die. There are lynchings. The only real defining characteristics that make it YA to me are the fact that there is no sex and no swearing.

It’s a fantastic series (so far) and I’ll be getting the third book the next time I go to the library.

If you’ve read these books, I’d love to know what you think. (No spoilers, please!)


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


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.

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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