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The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman ⇉ What Took Me So Long to Read This Book???

Thursday, February 23, 2017


The Graveyard Book
Neil Gaiman

Genre: MG/YA Fantasy
Paperback: 327 Pages
Publication: Sep. 28, 2010

Original Pub: Sep. 30, 2008
by Harper Collins



IT TAKES A GRAVEYARD TO RAISE A CHILD.

Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn't live in a sprawling graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts, with a solitary guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor of the dead. There are dangers and adventures in the graveyard for a boy - an ancient indigo man, a gateway to abandoned city of ghouls, the strange and terrible fleer. But if Bod leaves the graveyard, then he will be in danger from the man Jack - who has already killed Bod's family . . .


Review

Friends have been encouraging me to read Neil Gaiman's novels for years now. I remember loving (whilst simultaneously being terrified by) Coraline as a child, so I'm excited to be reading three of Gaiman's novels for my 2017 reading challenge. This is going to hold me accountable to finally reading his more recent works!

The Graveyard Book is a lovely and unexpected bildungsroman that has something for readers of all ages.

Top 5 (admittedly impractical) Survival Tips for an Alien Invasion

Tuesday, February 21, 2017
So you're stuck in the middle of an alien invasion. The mother ship is perched in near earth orbit, flying saucers are circling the Eiffel Tower, little green men are popping up at the local supermarket, and pod people have seized government offices around the world. It had to happen sooner or later. Why didn't we listen to all those tin foil-wearing conspiracy theorists when we had the chance? Well, nothing for it now but to grab the nearest sharp object or firearm, call your friends for backup, and try to make the most of a bad situation. Here are a few tips to help you stay alive long enough to join the resistance, evacuate the planet, or start that utopian community you've always wanted deep beneath the surface of the Earth until this whole invasion thing blows over.

1. 
Avoid sightseeing. We all know the drill. Aliens appear from the far reaches of space and set right to work with shocking displays of awesomely advanced weaponry. They'll hit the cities first, to get the biggest bang for their buck (or equivalent alien currency) in terms of eliminating any infrastructure and population that might be tempted to fight back. With that out of the way, however, it's time to start demoralizing those puny humans with a demonstration of how feeble and insignificant we really are. And what better way than to blow up the most impressive monuments our backward little civilization has been able to produce? Twenty years to build the Pyramid of Giza? How about two seconds with a high-test particle beam? Think the Hoover Dam represents human triumph over nature? Try triumphing over this antimatter death ray. Don't expect natural monuments to be any safer. These alien jerks will probably bulldoze the Great Barrier Reef and fill the Grand Canyon with molten rock just to show us who's boss. Best to leave the tourism for another day and stock up on bottled water and instant noodles.

2.
Learn the Language. Know thy enemy, the old adage goes, and there are few ways better to get into a sentient being's head (or wherever they keep their brain) than by understanding their language. It might involve whale-like singing, or clicking pincers, or shifting tones of bioluminescence, but if you can figure out how our alien visitors talk to one another, your chances of surviving to the end of the day will improve dramatically. Not only will it allow you to translate intercepted communications regarding the impending release of hostile nano-robots and eavesdrop on security forces patrolling your town ("Good thing the humans haven't discovered our weakness to aerosol air freshener, eh Bleeblox?"); you'll also be able to read signs and labels on everything from ray guns to spaceships to their newly-constructed headquarters of occupation ("Office of the Grand High Leader Without Whom the Invasion Cannot Continue"). Best way to learn an alien language? Immersion, probably, so if you've ended up imprisoned someplace, keep an ear open. Otherwise, try tuning in to their daytime television. Nothing like an extraterrestrial telenovela.

3.
Betray humanity. OK, so maybe you're not the adventurous type. Marginally resilient. Minimally resourceful. Not into defying the odds, braving adversity, risking it all. You prefer a hot bath, a soft bed, and a heady shot of artificially synthesized pleasure serum. That's fine. Seriously: how many true action heroes have you actually met? So if taking on the universe isn't your cup of tea, why not go ahead and join the winning side? You can bet our visitors from afar will need someone local to do a bit of PR, get the Earthlings on board with whatever sinister scheme they've cooked up for us. I mean, someone has to supervise the teams harvesting our planet's ozone layer for transport back to the alien home world, or find just the right real estate for the new gladiatorial arena where human prisoners will fight to the death for the amusement of our beloved Galactic Emperor. And you can bet whoever that person is will be richly rewarded. If collaborating with the invaders doesn't sit well with your conscience, just remind yourself how terribly we humans treated our planet back when we were in charge. You'll be able to rest assured you did the right thing as you glide over the ruins of mankind's endeavors in your fully furnished orbital condominium.

4.
Never get in a helicopter. This is just common sense, but it bears repeating. When social order starts collapsing, people start trying to escape in helicopters, and those helicopters invariably start blowing up. Always. It's the universal signal the situation has gone from bad to worse—and if there's an alien invasion in progress, it's a pretty safe bet things are headed in that general direction. So when the military lands a few precious rescue copters on the roof of your high school or office building, let someone else hop on first. Not only will this establish you as the sort of selfless, heroic type that nearly always survives the opening waves of mayhem, but I guarantee you the moment that chopper lifts off, some kind of flying space squid is going to get its tentacles tangled in the rotors and turn the whole thing into a flaming ball of I-told-you-so. You watch. If it doesn't, well, first round of toilet bowl hooch at the Martian penal colony is on me.

5.
Be a dog. If there is any universal truth to be gleaned from my experience with alien invasions, it is that the dog almost always survives. Perhaps it's that the extraterrestrials understand dogs don't share our human flaws, that they are sincere, loyal, trusting creatures that should not be blamed for any actions perpetrated by the dastardly homo sapiens. Possibly their keen senses and instincts enable survival in ways our clumsy two-legged bodies and television-numbed brains do not. Could be they're just too adorable to die. Whatever the reason, when the laser blasts start flying, our furry friends enjoy a rate of survival vastly superior to their human counterparts. So if you've ever thought about becoming a dog, now just might be the time.

It's YOUR Turn!
What is your number one survival tip for an alien invasion?


ABOUT NINTH CITY BURNING


We never saw them coming.

Entire cities disappeared in the blink of an eye, leaving nothing but dust and rubble. When an alien race came to make Earth theirs, they brought with them a weapon we had no way to fight, a universe-altering force known as thelemity. It seemed nothing could stop it—until we discovered we could wield the power too.

Five hundred years later, the Earth is locked in a grinding war of attrition. The talented few capable of bending thelemity to their will are trained in elite military academies, destined for the front lines. Those who refused to support the war have been exiled to the wilds of a ruined Earth.

But the enemy's tactics are changing, and Earth's defenders are about to discover this centuries-old war has only just begun. As a terrible new onslaught looms, heroes will rise from unlikely quarters, and fight back.


AUTHOR BIO

J. Patrick Black has worked as a bartender, a lifeguard, a small-town lawyer, a homebuilder, and a costumed theme park character, all while living a secret double life as a fiction writer. While fiction is now a profession, he still finds occasion to ply his other trades as well. He lives in Boston, Massachusetts, where he likes to visit the ocean. Ninth City Burning is his first (published) novel. He is at work on his next book.

For more information visit his website. You can also connect with him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Review: Interview With The Vampire by Anne Rice ⇉ When Vampires Were Scary and Didn't Wear Body Glitter

Thursday, February 16, 2017


Interview With The Vampire
Anne Rice

Genre: Gothic Horror
Paperback: 342 Pages
Publication: Aug. 31, 2004

Original Pub: Apr. 12, 1976
by Ballantine Books



Here are the confessions of a vampire. Hypnotic, shocking, and chillingly erotic, this is a novel of mesmerizing beauty and astonishing force—a story of danger and flight, of love and loss, of suspense and resolution, and of the extraordinary power of the senses. It is a novel only Anne Rice could write.


Review

Given how much information synopses tend to give about a book, it's been a long time since I read a novel that didn't give me an overview of the larger plot. The synopsis above and two friends' recommendation was all I had going into Interview With The Vampire.

I enjoyed the mystery and adventure of reading a book without prior knowledge of the world. It was especially appropriate for this novel given that Louis builds our knowledge and understanding of the vampire world to us through his interview with the boy. Like the boy, I was entranced by Louis's words and mannerisms. His poetic language doesn't come from the century, and though he expresses his eagerness to tell his story, he seems detached from it at the same time. Thus raises the question: Who is this mysterious vampire and why does he, a creature of the night, want to tell his story to a mortal boy of all people (and a reporter at that!)? Frankly, I'm still not entirely sure why he agreed to the interview, but perhaps he retains some of his humanity and wants to know that there is someone that knows his story. Or perhaps, given the boy's actions at the end, he seeks to use the boy. Despite the dubious nature of his person and story, Louis's story is believable because of the realistic way this novel is structured: as an interview.

The characters are memorable and compelling in their own right. Though they all do evil, there is reason to sympathize with even the most cruel and cunning of the vampires.  Rice explores questions of immortality, morality, and religion. How would immortality influence one's psychology (this theme is especially apparent in the character Clauda)? If vampires existed, can they be considered damned? Is there a god (and if so, the devil)? In one scene, Louis and Armand debate on the existence of God and morality. Many of their points seem tempting, but I can't agree with the philosophical points brought up there or at the end of the interview. They're very dark and existentialist, and they do not align with Christian beliefs. I read somewhere that Rice wrote this novel while grieving the loss of her daughter; likely, her grief had a large influence on the themes of this work.

What I appreciate the most is her writing. She describes people and settings in elaborate, poetic detail with a vampire's appreciation for beauty. These descriptions do drag out the narrative—there is a larger focus on characterization and world building than action in this novel—but I appreciate the time Anne Rice takes to build the world. Too many contemporary novels (especially in the urban fantasy family) tend to focus on action and fast pacing, and we lose out on other areas in the process. That said, many of these descriptions are deeply sensual and erotic. While I appreciate Rice's gift of language, the mature nature of these passages made me uncomfortable and are pervasive enough that they're unavoidable in this novel. If mature content is a dealbreaker for you, then I would forgo reading this novel.


Overall, Anne Rice builds an entrancing world. I would be interested in reading more from this world. From what I have found researching the other novels, however, they contain more gratuitous content. Therefore, this novel marks both my venture into and my departure from this world.

Roxanne, one of the friends who recommended this novel to me, has previously reviewed Interview With the Vampire on the blog (along with the second and third novels, in fact). Read her review for thoughts from someone with more knowledge of Anne Rice's works and an appreciation the vampire genre as a whole.

Read, Reconsider, or Relinquish? This is a Reconsider {due to the mature content}

Recommended for readers who love classic vampire tales in which vampires are cold, moral-less creatures of the night that kill for their pleasure / benefit.


Series
  1. Interview with the Vampire
  2. The Vampire Lestat
  3. The Queen of the Damned
  4. The Tale of the Body Thief
  5. Memnoch the Devil
  6. The Vampire Armand
  7. Merrick
  8. Blood and Gold
  9. Blackwood Farm
  10. Blood Canticle
  11. Prince Lestat
  12. Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis
Mature Content
  • Kissing
  • Homoerotic
  • Pedophilia
  • Nudity (described graphically)
  • Scenes with intense erotic undertones and descriptions of arousal
  • Violence & gore
  • Some graphic depictions of murder

The Dressmaker's Dowry by Meredith Jaeger ⇉ Harlequin Romance Dabbles in Crime

Tuesday, February 14, 2017
I picked up this novel because of the mystery of what happens to the dressmakers. While I enjoyed contemplating what would happen next to Hannelore and Margaret, the romance and plot were disappointing. In this novel, you can expect plenty of Harlequin-esque drama and superficial relationships among the people of high society.


WHAT I LIKED


Interesting Mystery
The mystery of the missing dressmakers intrigued me. Conditions for women, much less working women, were poor in the past, and I was curious to see what happened to them. Some elements were predictable while others were a surprise (though the erratic pacing threw off the build up to the climactic reveal). I had to suspend disbelief with some of the plot happenings. In the end, however, I appreciate the balance that Jaeger finds between trying to fulfill romantic fantasies and portraying realistic conclusions.

The Culture Speaks for Itself

Jaeger didn't need to tell me what time period I was in. The culture spoke for itself. Macs, Apple earbuds, the Lexus of the modern era easily contrasted with the pocket watches and three-quarters sleeves of the 19th century. Such details bring life to the setting.

Gentlemanly Men
I did have to suspend disbelief with the romance. Rich, handsome young men who take interest in the working woman's life and end up being romantically involved with them...? That sounds like something straight out of a K-drama. I do have to give a nod to the gentlemanly men. They're a warm ray of sunlight in a market flooded with bad boys (whom I would be terrified to introduce to my mother)!

Positive Sibling Relationships
Y'all know me. I have to give a shout out to positive familial relations whenever I see them! In this case, the positive sibling relationships belong in the historical time period. The parents were drunks, MIA, or dead, but the siblings know how to look out for each other. I especially love the sensible Martin :)


WHAT I DISLIKED


Cookie-Cutter Characters
The characters were bland and underdeveloped. Especially given the fast-paced (and unbelievable) romance, it felt like they stepped straight out of a Harlequin romance novel. Plot happenings and character backgrounds threaten to tear the lovebirds apart, but love has a way of overcoming everything without the characters needing to attend counseling sessions or communicating further than "I love you" or "I forgive you." (Very, very unrealistic.)

Rollercoaster Execution
The story is slow to start and quick to end. I was tempted to drop the story in the first quarter. As I've developed a bad habit of not finishing my books, however, I decided to give this one a chance. The last quarter was fast-paced as the plot came together into a climactic ending (in the historical past); I found myself drawn into the story. That was pretty much the highlight of the story.

Like a rollercoaster, this novel had a few buildups that ended in one thrilling drop, and then it was over.

Lightning flashed . . . and she fell in love.
If your eyes rolled at that line, I'm afraid that was my reaction to the romance.

I liked the ending to Hannelore's romance with rich boy (that was the most believable element of their romance), but the letter at the end ruined it all for me. I don't want to discuss this further because of spoilers. If you've read this novel and would like to talk about it, however, feel free to send an email. I love talking with readers!


FINAL THOUGHTS


Readers that enjoy a Harlequin Romance with mystery and crime woven into the plot may enjoy this novel. If you're not a big romance reader—especially when they seem written to fulfill romantic fantasies that don't translate well into real life—then you'll want to pass this one over. While the mystery/crime aspect was interesting, it wasn't well executed (refer back to the rollercoaster analogy above). Pure mystery-crime novels will have more to offer for readers of that genre.

★★☆


This historical debut novel tells the story of two women: one, an immigrant seamstress who disappears from San Francisco’s gritty streets in 1876, and the other, a young woman in present day who must delve into the secrets of her husband’s wealthy family only to discover that she and the missing dressmaker might be connected in unexpected ways.

An exquisite ring, passed down through generations, connects two women who learn that love is a choice, and forgiveness is the key to freedom...

San Francisco: 1876

Immigrant dressmakers Hannelore Schaeffer and Margaret O'Brien struggle to provide food for their siblings, while mending delicate clothing for the city's most affluent ladies. When wealthy Lucas Havensworth enters the shop, Hanna's future is altered forever. With Margaret's encouragement and the power of a borrowed green dress, Hanna dares to see herself as worthy of him. Then Margaret disappears, and Hanna turns to Lucas. Braving the gritty streets of the Barbary Coast and daring to enter the mansions of Nob Hill, Hanna stumbles upon Margaret’s fate, forcing her to make a devastating decision...one that will echo through the generations.

San Francisco: Present Day

In her elegant Marina apartment overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge, Sarah Havensworth struggles to complete the novel she quit her job for. Afraid to tell her husband of her writer’s block, Sarah is also hiding a darker secret—one that has haunted her for 14 years. Then a news headline from 1876 sparks inspiration: Missing Dressmakers Believed to be Murdered. Compelled to discover what happened to Hannelore and Margaret, Sarah returns to her roots as a journalist. Will her beautiful heirloom engagement ring uncover a connection to Hanna Schaeffer?



YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE...


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CHAT WITH ME


What's one of your favorite stories about an ancestor (or other historical figure)?



Publication Info
Series
  • N/A
Content
  • Kissing
  • Sex and arousal (explicit descriptions)

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this novel from the publisher. All thoughts expressed are my personal honest opinions.

Criss Cross by Lynne Rae Perkins ⇉ A Breath of Fresh Air

Friday, February 10, 2017


Criss Cross
Lynne Rae Perkins

Genre: YA Contemporary
Hardback: 337 Pages
Publication: Aug. 30, 2000
by Greenwillow Books



She wished something would happen. Something good. To her. Looking at the bright, fuzzy picture in the magazine, she thought, Something like that. Checking her wish for loopholes, she found one. Hoping it wasn't too late, she thought the word soon.





Review

"She wished something would happen."

So begins Lynne Rae Perkins's coming-of-age novel about growing up, exploring new possibilities, gaining new experiences, and feeling the first glimmers of love. It is a story with which we can relate no matter how much we "grow up."

Dreamland by Sarah Dessen ⇉ The Scariest Part? I Don't Know When I Woke Up in Dreamland.

Friday, February 3, 2017


Dreamland
Sarah Dessen

Genre: YA Contemporary
Paperback: 250 Pages
Publication: May 11, 2004

Original Pub: Sept. 1, 2000
by Speak



Wake up, Caitlin

Ever since she started going out with Rogerson Biscoe, Caitlin seems to have fallen into a semiconscious dreamland where nothing is quite real. Rogerson is different from anyone Caitlin has ever known. He's magnetic. He's compelling. He's dangerous. Being with him makes Caitlin forget about everything else--her missing sister, her withdrawn mother, her lackluster life. But what happens when being with Rogerson becomes a larger problem than being without him?


Review

"But I couldn't tell her. I couldn't tell anyone. As long as I didn't say it aloud, it wasn't real."

As Caitlin loses touch with reality, I found myself subconsciously drawn into her Dreamland. By the last hundred pages, I couldn't put this novel down.