Archive | July 2013

Review – World War Z by Max Brooks

world war zI bought World War Z a while back and had been waiting for the perfect time to read it.  When the movie was about to come out, I decided to give it a shot and then go see the movie to compare.  It didn’t exactly go as planned…

I love all forms of paranormal creatures – zombies, vampires, witches, etc. – so I thought World War Z would be a no-brainer for me.  It was boring.  And, it took FOREVER for me to finish because I had no motivation to pick it up each night.  The high level storyline is fine.  But I couldn’t connect with any of the characters.  WWZ is written as a series of printed transcripts from interviews with different people who were involved in the war.  It does, somewhat, follow the timeline by focusing on different aspects.  But, it is impossible to get to know anyone and care about them.  The narrator is the journalist interviewing them.  But, he’s not really the narrator as he basically just explains who he is interviewing at the beginning of each section.  There is a two page introduction that does talk about why he decided to put this together.

As I was starting to read, I saw an article the discussed Max Brooks’ views on the movie.  He pretty much made it clear that he had little to nothing to do with the movie and that it is extremely different from the book.  The truth is that I don’t see how they could make an enjoyable movie out of the book as written.  It’s too fragmented and, again, little to no character development.

Maybe I should go see the movie.  I might like it better.

2/5 stars from a disappointed reader.

Mixed Up Monday – Opening Lines

I read an article recently in which Stephen King talked about the importance of opening lines. They can either pull in or push away a potential reader. So, I thought I would check a few opening lines of some of my favorite novels to see how they stack up. Tell me what you think. What is your favorite opening line?

“Scarlett O’Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were.” Gone With the Wind

“Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.” Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

“Left Munich at 8.35 p.m. on 1st May, arriving at Vienna early next morning; should have arrived 6.46, but train was an hour late.” Dracula

“When she began to stir from her deep slumber, she had no idea she was buried under several feet of moist, dark earth.” Pretty When She Dies

“It wasn’t a very likely place for disappearances, at least at first glance.” Outlander

“The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.” The Gunslinger

 

Review – Life As We Knew It (Last Survivors #1)

life as we knew itI am collecting books for my niece to read as she grows into them. Recently, I saw Life As We Knew It as a clearance paperback on Amazon and the premise sounded interesting. LAWKI is marketed towards grades 6-8 so I thought this might be a good entrance into the post-apocalyptic / dystopian world for an 11-12 year old. Before I gave it to her, though, I wanted to read for myself (hey, it sounded pretty good) and determine if it was appropriate for her age.

So, here’s the thing – I liked it (4/5 stars) and think that it would probably be fine for her in several years. When I was her age, I remember worrying almost constantly. I had realized that death was inevitable and that there were so many ways that could happen. I worried about nuclear war on a daily basis, car accidents, cancer, etc. This stage passed pretty quickly but would come back occasionally for years. While I don’t want her to be sheltered, I also don’t want to scare her unnecessarily. And, I have to admit that this book could do that.

Astronomers have informed the world that an asteroid is going to hit the moon so everyone sits outside in their lawn chairs and watches the show. Pretty quickly they realize that something isn’t right. The moon tilts and starts moving towards the earth. Luckily, it does stop but the orbit has completely changed. Science lesson everyone – the moon actually impacts a lot here on earth. The first effect noticed is the tides – tsunamis are reported and much of the coastline is destroyed. LAWKI tells us one family’s survival story. The narrator, Miranda, is a 16-year-old high school student. Honestly, she is fairly annoying for the majority of the book. She would have moments of clarity but then would say that she didn’t understand that things weren’t going to “get back to normal”. In some scenes, the adults weren’t much better. They believed the school was going to be able to provide lunches for their children when there was little to no electricity, gas rationing (so no trucks/trains coming in) and very limited supplies. There are other effects on the weather and the atmosphere (again, didn’t most people have basic science knowledge to know that the moon’s pull would cause these things?)

Anyway, it was a good story even if a little annoying in spots. I do wish the author hadn’t chosen to insert such strong political and religious beliefs into a book for children. It seemed that most of the adults were either ultra-liberal (bad-mouthing the president – Bush at the time) or religious zealots (like the pastor who is eating food that his parishioners give him while they starve to death in the name of God.) I would have liked a more balanced approach to both sides as I do believe that most people are somewhere in the middle in real life.

Review – The Fiery Cross (Outlander #5) by Diana Gabaldon

the fiery crossThe Fiery Cross has, quite possibly, the best ending line in any book I’ve read: “When the day shall come, that we do part,” he said softly, and turned to look at me, “if my last words are not ‘I love you’, – ye’ll ken it was because I didna have time.” Swoon…

Oh yeah, back to the review…Ahem.

Reviews for the 5th installment of the Outlander series are decidedly mixed. There are those that loved it (as did I) and those that hated. Others, in the middle, appreciated the story but thought it was hundreds of pages too long. I understand that mix of emotions. The first 164 pages encompass one day – the scheduled wedding day of Briana/Roger and Jocasta/Duncan at River Run. So much happens that you do have to remind yourself that we are still only talking about one day. It worked for me. I could imagine the hectic nature of the day with everything that needed to be done. And, yes, I even enjoyed the descriptions of changing diapers (who doesn’t want to learn how diapers are changed in the 1700s?) While there is a good bit of detail in the writing, ALOT happens through the course of the novel. No spoilers so I’ll have to be careful but none of the major characters are untouched. Each experience major life events. They are heart-wrenching, moving, surprising and more. At this point in the series we feel that we know these characters personally and we hurt when they hurt. DG creates tension in almost every scene. You can feel that something is about to happen so your heart races while you are clenching your teeth waiting for the reveal. I had quite the headache when I finished The Fiery Cross but it was so worth it.

I grew up in South Carolina and spent a decent amount of time in North Carolina. How did I not know about the War of the Regulation (as some called it) or the Regulators? I have since researched a little and am surprised that our American and / or South Carolina history classes didn’t cover this precursor to the American Revolution. There was a sense of deja vu when reading – the Regulators are protesting taxation and government interference. Hundreds of years and we are still having the same problems. Maybe one day we will figure it out.

We find out that both Jamie and Roger are Masons. I have to admit that this made me laugh a little. My father is a Mason (I don’t know if I’m supposed to tell you that or if it’s a secret) and it always drove my Mother a little crazy that she didn’t know what they did at the meetings. You know, they probably all get together and smoke cigars while drinking Scotch but it’s become some mystical society that is full of secrets.

Laoghaire, I really, really do not like you. She is a very minor character in The Fiery Cross (thank goodness!) and I have a theory about her secret. Even though I wish she were no longer a part of their lives, I do hope to find out if I am right.

Each time I start an Outlander novel, I realize that I “think” with a Scottish dialect in my day-to-day life now. It’s verra strange and I willna say it out loud but it’s a part of me, ye ken. Dinna fash.

I have two more to read before the next installment is published in March 2014. Trying to hold out for a few months to stretch the time so that I don’t feel empty without a Jamie and Claire fix. Well, I guess I could always reread Outlander to get ready for the Starz series that also premieres next year.

5/5 stars and, yes, I may be in need of an Outlander intervention.

 

Review – Bones of the Lost (Temperance Brennan #16) by Kathy Reichs

Bones of the LostWriting this review makes me sad.  I used to be such a fan of this series and recently started watching a few reruns of Bones  – the title character is a mash-up of Brennan as written, Reichs herself and a fictional socially awkward anthropologist.  When I saw Bones of the Lost available on Netgalley I thought this might just the kick-start I needed to pick up the series again.  Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way.

Both the writing and the story just were not up to par.

Writing – the prologue is written in almost all simple sentences.  That can be used to great effect when done properly and sparingly.  It went on for way too long which seemed choppy and amateurish (I really do hate saying that).  I’m not supposed to quote from an ARC and I won’t but it wasn’t good.  A writer has such a short period at the beginning of the novel to set the tone and draw in the reader.  Didn’t work.  Another section was written primarily with questions.  The MC asking herself question after question after question.  This was almost worse than the simple sentences.  I wanted to kick the book and couldn’t because I didn’t want to damage my I-Pad.

Story – all of the little mysteries became interconnected.  I know many authors feel they have to do this to make it a cohesive story.  I would argue that point but will say that, again, it can work when done properly.  In this case, the connections were so far-fetched and far-reaching that it did not make sense.  The primary plot points were not very original either (human trafficking, war crimes, etc.)  I felt that I had read it all before.

Now I’m going to rant for a second.  I’m trying to decide if I have changed so much as a reader or if many of these writers have just become either a) lazy, b) bored with their own characters or c) hired interns to do their writing.  I can no longer read the Scarpetta series by Patricia Cornwell.  I used to absolutely love that series but that last one I tried to read a few years ago was just painful.  And, James Patterson, don’t even get me started.  Charlaine Harris, Tess Gerritsen (to some extent) and the list goes on and on.  Now I have to add Kathy Reichs and it is making me angry.

Maybe it is me.  Maybe not.

Ready for tears but I have to give this 1/5 stars.

Thank you to the publisher for providing a copy through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Review – Carniepunk

CarniepunkI’ve never been a big fan of anthologies.  There is limited reading time (sad, I know) so I stick to novels where I can find character development and a depth to the story.  However, in the past several months I decided to read more short stories.  Earlier this year I read and reviewed a book of short stories / novellas by one of my favorite authors.  And, my husband surprised me with an anthology of zombie shorts that I have enjoyed to the halfway point.  So, when I saw this group of authors (many very well-known for their paranormal writing) and, hello, CARNIVALS – I really wanted to give this one a shot.  Am I glad I did?  You betcha!

As with any eclectic group, some of the stories are definitely better than others.  I won’t review each one separately here but if you are interested, I did rate each one with my Goodreads status updates while reading.  The ratings varied from 1 to 5 stars with most receiving 3.5-4.

My favorite was definitely “The Cold Girl” by Rachel Caine.  It was scary and sad – abusive teenage relationships, fortune tellers and the reaper.  About 30 pages but better character development than many full length paranormal novels out right now.

Least favorite was “The Sweeter the Juice” by Mark Henry.  I can’t even describe it.  Just weird.  And, I hate to say but not good at all.

Overall, 4/5 stars and worth the price of admission.

Thank you to the Gallery Books for providing a copy through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Review – The Boleyn King (The Boleyn Trilogy #1) by Laura Anderson

The Boleyn KingWhen I saw The Boleyn King on Netgalley I was instantly intrigued.  What if Anne Boleyn’s son had not died and became the heir to the throne behind his father Henry VIII?  Would Anne have met her fate at Tower Green or would she live to raise the future King of England?

There is a lot to like about this book.  Henry VIII has died and William is the king.  However, he doesn’t have the full power of the throne until his 18th birthday.  His strongest supporter is his sister, Elizabeth.  But he also has trusted friends Dominic and Minuette (whose own mother served as a lady to Anne Boleyn.)  And, yes, Anne is still around and a cause for friction with William’s half-sister, Mary, and her strong Catholic supporters.

It took me a long time to read The Boleyn King (May 25-July 5).  Given the size, I should have read it in a couple of days.  The problem was that the first half didn’t hold my attention.  I was enjoying the story and each night I would pull it up on my Kindle app but then I’d read a page or two and get sidetracked.  I would play Temple Run or pick up another book.  The next night, I’d remind myself that I did like the story; so, I would start reading and the same thing would happen.  However, once I got past 50%, my reading pace really picked up.

My favorite parts of The Boleyn King focused on the friendship between the four main characters.  Can you imagine being friends with the King of England?  Minuette and Dominic are trusted but they know that they have to watch their words and actions.  Even Elizabeth, his sister, is careful not to overstep her bounds.

Of course, there is a conspiracy at play – apparently there is a rumored affidavit that states that William isn’t Henry’s son but actually is George’s son.  This has been the basis of many of the Boleyn stories – after all, in the ‘real’ world both Anne and George were convicted of treasonous adultery and beheaded.  (The evidence appears to be arguable but history shows that Henry didn’t really care about those details.)  For this story, most everyone seems to believe that William is actually Henry’s son but it will be interesting to see how the trilogy plays out.

The love triangle wasn’t one of my favorite plot points.  I don’t think it’s a spoiler as I saw it coming from almost the first chapter.  Both William and Dominic find themselves in love with Minuette.  Dominic probably truly in love and William, I am guessing, is just infatuated.  I hope that this isn’t the focus of the next book and that it works itself out quickly without any beheadings.

A good start to a new series and I will definitely read the next installment.  4/5 stars.   Thank you to the publisher for providing an ARC through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.