Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Pure by Andrew Miller


by Andrew Miller

Deep in the heart of Paris, its oldest cemetery is, by 1785, overflowing, tainting the very breath of those who live nearby. Into their midst comes Jean-Baptiste Baratte, a young, provincial engineer charged by the king with demolishing it.

At first Baratte sees this as a chance to clear the burden of history, a fitting task for a modern man of reason. But before long, he begins to suspect that the destruction of the cemetery might be a prelude to his own.
This was a very good, character driven story written in the present tense.  I loved the description of the Paris streets and slums during the 1700's.  Things were not pretty, not at all, and this story tells all the dirty details.  I was horrified at the living conditions through most of the book. 
Jean-Baptiste begins as a very impressionable young man with not much worldly experience and I loved how his character grew during the span of the story. 
The story itself was very literary and although I loved the writing, I wished I could have sunk down into it more. 
Pure was very good, very well-written...and often disgusting.  Which is really true to history, I think.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Bared To You by Sylvia Day

Bared To You

by Sylvia Day

Gideon Cross came into my life like lightning in the darkness… He was beautiful and brilliant, jagged and white-hot. I was drawn to him as I’d never been to anything or anyone in my life. I craved his touch like a drug, even knowing it would weaken me. I was flawed and damaged, and he opened those cracks in me so easily…

Gideon knew. He had demons of his own. And we would become the mirrors that reflected each other’s most private wounds…and desires.The bonds of his love transformed me, even as i prayed that the torment of our pasts didn't tear us apart...
 So...I read this.  I actually liked it.  I've never read 50 Shades of Grey, I don't really want to because of how terrible the writing seems in the excerpts.  If I had known before I started it that Bared To You was supposed to be some sort of homage to 50 Shades....well, I probably wouldn't have read it.  I still have some embarrassment when it comes to reading romance, so I try to stay far from anything with too much drama attached to it.  Because the first thing people say when you tell them you read romance is 'oh, like sex books?'
Moving on.
The story itself was good and I like Day's writing, though she did use a bit too much purple prose for my taste.  I liked that it wasn't just a story of 'already well-off beautiful woman meets ridiculously wealthy and gorgeous man with control issues'.  A lot of the story itself is these two messed-up characters trying to make a relationship work.   
Gideon Cross was a little too good to be true at first, but that rapidly changed for me once I got to know his character better.  He was insanely creepy and I was sorta surprised that he didn't end up being a serial killer.  He stalked her repeatedly, went through her phone, did background checks on everyone she ever came into contact with, and TOOK PICTURES OF HER ROOM SO HE COULD MAKE A DUPLICATE ROOM IN HIS OWN SUITE.  Complete with identical furniture and personal items, of course. 
So, since most people reading this book will be adults, I will not mention how scary his behavior is.   Not. healthy.  Eva didn't seem to worry about it much, except for the occasional fond thought about his cute possessiveness.  Ugh. 
So, on to the things I liked.  I liked how they tried hard to work on their relationship (besides the creepiness) and they actually talked through their problems most of the time.  I get frustrated with most romance because of the lack of communication, so this was a welcome surprise. 
I loved that there were a few scenes where Eva was actively courting Gideon by sending him flowers and gifts.  It was awesome!  Who says the men have to go through all the trouble?  I loved, loved, that part!
*Spoilers ahead!*
Another thing I loved was the fact that Sylvia Day didn't pull any punches and had Gideon traumatized by past sexual abuse.  That's an odd thing to say that I loved, I know.  But I think there is too little awareness of the fact that men are almost as likely to suffer sexual abuse as women are.  

Friday, December 13, 2013

Grow a Sustainable Diet: Planning and Growing to Feed Ourselves and the Earth by Cindy Conner

I received an ARC copy of this book from the publisher through Netgalley.

Cold Iron by D.L. McDermott

Cold Iron

by D.L. McDermott

The Fae, the Good Neighbors, the Fair Folk, the Aes Sídhe, creatures of preternatural beauty and seduction. Archaeologist Beth Carter doesn’t believe in them. She’s always credited her extraordinary ability to identify ancient Celtic sites to hard work and intuition—until today.

The tomb Beth has just discovered is the most complete Celtic burial she’s ever seen. Filled with ancient treasure, impossibly well-preserved, the burial has everything—except a body. Her ex-husband, the scholar who stifled her career to advance his own, is unconcerned. Corpses don’t fetch much on the antiquities market. Gold does. Beth knows from past experience that if she isn’t vigilant, Frank will make off with the hoard.

So when a man—tall, broad shouldered, and impossibly handsome—turns up in her bedroom claiming to be the tomb’s inhabitant, one of the Tuatha Dé Danann, the mythic god-kings of old Ireland, Beth believes it is a ploy cooked up by her ex-husband to scare her away from the excavation.

But Conn is all too real. Ancient, alien, irresistible, the Fae are the stuff of dreams and nightmares, their attentions so addictive their abandoned human lovers wither and die. And this one has fixed his supernatural desire on Beth.

I received an ARC copy of Cold Iron from the publisher through Netgalley.

I loved the idea of this book more than the actual result.  I grew up with an intense fascination with everything Celtic, especially ancient Irish history.  Maybe that was the problem.  Maybe I let my expectations get too high.  If you don't particularly care about the Irish setting, then you'll probably love the book a lot more than I did, for reasons explained below.

The story began with Beth and her ex investigating an ancient burial mound in Ireland.  That was definitely something I could get into.  It was like history at my fingertips! It didn't even have to be all that accurate, I just wanted more.

But much sooner than I expected Conn arrived, and even though he was very 'when you want the woman, you just take the woman' I was determined that I was going to like him.  Because he's Irish and the image on the cover is smokin' hot.

I even liked Beth because she was turning out to be pretty tough. But then she just up and left Ireland to go back to a major American city.  What!  Where is my Irish atmosphere?  I want rolling green hills and small Irish inns with their interesting characters.  I wanted to hear more about the burial mound itself.  Everything Irish was quickly swept away to be replaced with everyday American life.
'Ok, that's fine', I thought.  At least he's an Irish warrior.  That counts, right?  Wrong.  Out of Ireland, and without the setting to constantly remind me of where he came from, Conn became just another alpha male with supernatural abilities.  He made the transition to modern Boston life so well that I quickly lost a lot of interest in his character.  I know the Fae in the story do get out every once in a while, but you would think he would still retain a lot of his Irish 'otherness'. 

The characters themselves were ok, but not very engaging.  Beth was sweet and tough, and I should have liked her a lot.  I'm not sure why I didn't love her.  She was by far the stronger of the two.  Toward the end of the book, she was definitely kicking ass and taking names.  You go girl!

I think most of my disappointment stemmed from the fact that this book didn't take place in Ireland like I thought it would.  Horrible, I know.

Things I liked about the book:

The Fae are described as cruel and unfeeling.  Good.  I like that better than a lot of the gentle fairy people stories.

Micah.  He was a secondary character, but he had a lot more character depth than the two main characters.  I enjoyed the chapters with him in them.

THE COVER!!!  I mean...WOW.

I think I'll like the next book a lot more because I'll know what to expect.  And because of Micah.

3/5 Stars

Friday, December 6, 2013

Torn by War by Jim Melvin

Torn By War

by Jim Melvin

Everyone they love may be doomed. Everything they cherish may be destroyed. There is no turning back.

Torg and Laylah’s world is in chaos; their life together, in jeopardy. Even a powerful Death Wizard such as Torg may not triumph as three terrible wars are unleashed upon the land. The evil druids of the forest Dhutanga—giant, insect-like monsters—swarm to attack the white horsemen of Jivita. The druids are superior both in strength and numbers, but the forces of good are not without hope. Torg and his Tugars stand by the horsemen’s sides.

Several hundred leagues to the east, an army of zombies invades Tējo, the great desert. Most of the Tugars have left to aid their allies, and only a few warriors remain to defend the Tugars’ homeland against this horrendous assault.

The most devastating force of all is led by Mala, the ruined snow giant, who has marched with his massive army of cretins and golden soldiers to assail the black fortress of Nissaya.

Triken is on fire.
I received a copy of Torn By War from the publisher via Netgalley.
I'm not sure what to say about this book, truthfully.  There were times when I liked it and I was interested in the various beings and monsters that Jim Melvin has created.  Sometimes the writing was great, other times not so great. 
I was bored through lot of the book and would have to resist skipping chapters just to get to the characters I liked a bit more. 
The writing style was similar to a lot of epic fantasy, just a little less polished.  I cringed when someone was referred to as going back to their 'nicey state'.  This was after a group of creatures were described as leaving their 'meaney' state.  I felt like I was in middle school again. 
All in all, it was just 'ok' for me.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion

Warm Bodies

by Isaac Marion

R is a young man with an existential crisis--he is a zombie. He shuffles through an America destroyed by war, social collapse, and the mindless hunger of his undead comrades, but he craves something more than blood and brains. He can speak just a few grunted syllables, but his inner life is deep, full of wonder and longing. He has no memories, no identity, and no pulse. Just dreams.

After experiencing a teenage boy's memories while consuming his brain, R makes an unexpected choice that begins a tense, awkward, and strangely sweet relationship with the victim's human girlfriend. Julie is a burst of vibrant color in the otherwise dreary and gray landscape that R lives in. His decision to protect her will transform not only R, but his fellow Dead, and perhaps their whole lifeless world...

Scary, funny, and surprisingly poignant, Warm Bodies is about being alive, being dead and the blurry line in between.

First of all, I had no idea zombies could be so poetic.  Who knew that under all the moaning and shambling there could be some pretty deep thoughts?

R is a pretty nice guy, once you get to know him and if he doesn't eat you first.  Even though he has the urge to munch on brains every once in a while, he cares about his friends and often regrets his desire to hurt eat others.

He lives a pretty bleak existence, with only his record player and the short hours when the airport escalator actually works and he can ride it up and down.  Up and down. 
He has his friend M and the two exchange the odd grunt or two and occasionally they share any leftover brains they may have saved. 
The brains act like a drug for zombies, where they can for a few moments relive the memories of the dead. Even so, life is still bleak and going nowhere.
When R meets Julie, it's like something miraculous happens...his world is no longer gray and lifeless.    

I really liked Julie, even though I thought it was a little odd at first that she got over his being a zombie rather quickly.  She is sweet but tough enough to take care of herself when she needs to.  She loves life but still carries this world-weary attitude at times. 

The story is written mostly from R's POV and I love the insights into his psyche.  He is definitely a deep-thinker and a dreamer.  Just my kind of guy.  Er...zombie.
There was a lot of humor, some gore, some romance, and a lot of philosophical thoughts coming from the shambling dead.
I loved it.  It was fun and made me laugh hysterically several times until I was afraid my family would hear and think I was nuts.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Honour And The Sword by A.L. Berridge

Honour And The Sword

by A.L. Berridge

It is 1636 - the height of the Thirty Years War, one of the bloodiest and most destructive conflicts Europe has ever seen. As the campaigning season begins, the Spanish armies swell out of the Artois region of the Netherlands – flooding into King Louis XIII's France.

The sleepy border village of Dax-en-roi stands in their way. Facing the overwhelming might of the Spanish forces, the Chevalier de Roland rallies a valiant defence, but in vain – his household guard no match for the invaders. There is only one survivor as the Roland estate is razed to the ground, one soul who escapes the Spanish brutality: the lone heir to the Roland name, the son, a young boy by the name of André de Roland, the new Sieur of Dax . . .

Upon this young nobleman's shoulders all hope lies. He alone must bear the honour of the Roland name and, with it, the fate of his people.

What could I possibly say about this book, besides the fact that this is one of the best books I've read in a long time?  It was wonderfully written, masterful even.  The characters were unique and their personalities remained true throughout the story.  They had such depth to them!  The book is written with several characters narrating their accounts, each told in first person POV.  I loved the way this was done because it gave me a better understanding of each of the characters.  I loved each of them  (except for Destrada's man).  I would highly recommend the audiobook narrated by Jonathan Oliver.  He brings the stories to life and narrates each character so that their personalities shine through.  I'd say that one of the things I loved so much about the book was his narration.  Many people found the format confusing, but with the audiobook it is easy to follow as each of the characters has their own unique voice.
There was so much suspense in this book!  I felt like absolutely anything could happen at any time and just when I thought I knew how a situation would end...BAM!  Everything would change.  Just like real life, nothing is certain.  The suspense nearly killed me.  In a good way, of course.  My heart was pounding, I wanted to either duck and cover or go fight someone.

I don't know much about the Thirty Years War except from what I read in the book, but it has spurred me on to learn more.  The author wrote in a way that I could easily imagine the setting and the atmosphere of the place.  It felt real.  I wanted to be out there, fighting alongside the French defenders.  The desperation, anger, grief...I felt it all keenly.
I loved every moment of Honour And The Sword.  Finishing the book was like losing a very good friend.  Nothing I write in this review could possibly do it justice. So read it!  Do it.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

The Graveyard Book

by Neil Gaiman

In The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman has created a charming allegory of childhood. Although the book opens with a scary scene--a family is stabbed to death by "a man named Jack” --the story quickly moves into more child-friendly storytelling. The sole survivor of the attack--an 18-month-old baby--escapes his crib and his house, and toddles to a nearby graveyard. Quickly recognizing that the baby is orphaned, the graveyard's ghostly residents adopt him, name him Nobody ("Bod"), and allow him to live in their tomb. Taking inspiration from Kipling’s The Jungle Book, Gaiman describes how the toddler navigates among the headstones, asking a lot of questions and picking up the tricks of the living and the dead. In serial-like episodes, the story follows Bod's progress as he grows from baby to teen, learning life’s lessons amid a cadre of the long-dead, ghouls, witches, intermittent human interlopers. A pallid, nocturnal guardian named Silas ensures that Bod receives food, books, and anything else he might need from the human world. Whenever the boy strays from his usual play among the headstones, he finds new dangers, learns his limitations and strengths, and acquires the skills he needs to survive within the confines of the graveyard and in wider world beyond.

This was a wonderful book and a very fun read.  Even though it was a children's book there was a lot for adults to love in The Graveyard Book. 
I loved Bod's relationship with the citizens of the graveyard.  I was so interested in his schooling with the various ghosts.  Each one had something extra to teach Bod based on their life experiences and the history of their time.  It was very entertaining.
It was very dark in certain parts, especially the beginning.  I love dark, but it's probably not something to read to very young children  :).  Unless they tend to like that kind of thing.