Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Informationist - Taylor Stevens

Title: The Informationist
Author: Taylor Stevens
Paperback: 307 pages
Publisher: Broadway/Crown/Random House
Published date: March 2011
FTC: Received to read and review from Publisher

When I first heard about Taylor Stevens' book The Informationist I was intrigued.  My Master's degree is in Information Science so the title was very appealing.  This is Stevens' first book featuring heroine Vanessa Michael Munroe who deals in information gathering for her clients.  I absolutely enjoyed this book and can't wait to read her next book The Innocent.

Back of the book:

Vanessa "Michael" Munroe deals in information. After escaping a traumatic childhood in lawless central Africa, she is now sought after by corporations, heads of state, and private clients who can afford her unique brand of expertise.

When a Texas oil billionaire hires her to find his daughter who has vanished in Africa, Munroe finds herself back in the darklands she once knew so well, fighting mysterious forces determined to keep the fate of the missing girl a secret. If she has any hope of getting out of the jungle alive, Munroe must finally face up to the demons of the past she's tried for so long to forget.

My thoughts:

I throughly enjoyed The Informationist and will definitely be reading more of Stevens' books.  I don't think it was so much the character of Munroe (who goes by the masculine name Michael and who IS really a kick-butt character) but rather the African setting.  I can't say that I've traveled anywhere like where she was in Africa but the book was so spot on regarding certain things that it reminded me of when my husband and I traveled through Egypt.  Munroe goes through Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea and I was so absorbed that I was getting out Google Earth and seeing where she was and what rivers and cities she was traveling through.  Stevens was spot on, I thought, regarding customs, language, and just uniqueness of African life.  I would love to learn how she knows so much about Africa (Ah ha! Here's an article about that).

The story and Michael Munroe's character were interesting - but it really was the Africa setting I loved. I've read some reviews where people were disappointed that too much of Munroe's back story was revealed in this first book - but that wasn't my opinion at all.  I am much more interested to see where Stevens takes this character and how she evolves through subsequent books.  I would also love to see her story adapted into a movie.

I've heard this book and protagonist Munroe compared to The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and Lisbeth Salander.  I really can't compare since I've never read that series and have only seen the Swedish movie.  I'm definitely going to have to pick it up now and see if it compares at all.

For fun:

I thought I'd share just a few random photos from our trip to Egypt back in '08.

Felccua in Aswan
Fast food cart
Felucca guides in Aswan
Cairo traffic
How you cross the street in Cairo

Alternate cover:

Also Reviewed By:

Book Magic
S. Krishna's Books
Number One Novels

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Babies love books

Should I be concerned that Rocket's rolling around now (no crawling but rolling) and he apparently shares my love of books.  But that could be a bad thing right now.

I've also been playing with my white balance button on my camera.  It takes such such better photos.  Here's when I caught Rocket before setting my white balance.

Ouch, right?  Here's one of my favorite:

Ok.  He's crying now.  Stuck in the bookshelf again.  Oh joy :)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Personal Wish-List Challenge

I've been composing my own little wish-list of books that have been coming out by my favorite authors. It seems like just recently there's an onslaught of them. I figured I might as well keep a running tally of them and link them under my Challenges page. What's on your wish-list?

Charles Frazier - Nightwoods   I loved loved Thirteen Moons but thought Cold Mountain was ok.  I want to this one out and see how it is.

David Liss - The Twelfth Enchantment   My husband and I listened to the audio version of Whiskey Rebels and I loved his writing and the characters.  I keep collecting his books - I have two on my shelf I need to read, but The Twelfth Enchantment sounds a bit different than his normal fare and I can't wait to get my hands on it.

Ann Pachett - State of Wonder 
I thought Bel Canto was pretty darn good (if not a bit purposefully heart wrenching), Run (my review) was pretty good too, and I recently found a used copy of Truth & Beauty I've been wanting to dig into.  I've heard that State of Wonder is pretty good too.  Must check it out.

Thomas Mullen - The Revisionists 
One of my favorite books I've read in recent memory is Thomas Mullen's book The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers.  A.W.E.S.O.M.E.  Read it now.  Read my review.  Then read Leafing Through Life's review.  She agrees that it is awesome.  And how cool does his new book sound about time travel?  May need to actually buy this one.  I know!

Matthew Pearl - The Technologists
I've read and reviewed his book The Last Dickens and recently found a copy of The Poe Shadow.  This one, about post Civil War and MIT --- sounds fascinating to me.

Candice Millard - Destiny of the Republic: A tale of medicine, madness, and the murder of an American President

Years ago I read and fell in love with her book River of Doubt about Teddy Roosevelt's trip down the Amazon River.  O yeah.  So cool.  So when I heard she finally came out with a new book, I knew I had to read it.  It's gotten amazing good reviews.  It's about the attempted assassination of President Garfield - a Civil War hero and how Alexander Graham Bell (yes THE telephone guy) tried to help save his life.  Oooo.

Alice Hoffman - The Dovekeepers
I'll admit I first heard of Hoffman when I saw the movie Practical Magic.  I read the book (my review) and then fell in love with her after reading The River King (my review).  I have a stack of her books on my shelf waiting to be read.  But The Dovekeepers is a bit of a departure from her norm and I've heard it is AMAZING.  Must buy.

Interred With Their Bones - Jennifer Lee Carrell

Title: Interred With Their Bones
Author: Jennifer Lee Carrell
Paperback: 416 pages
Publisher: Plume/Penguin
Published date: 2007
FTC: won in a contest from Reading Group Choices

A few years ago I won a cool bundle of books from Reading Group Choices - a very very cool site for book lovers.  Back in 2009 I read this book and thought it was a fun Shakespearean mystery but never reviewed it for some reason.  While watching the preview for the movie Anonymous, a movie centered around one of the theories of who wrote the famous plays, I was reminded of this book.  So I thought I'd re-read it and finally get a review written.

My synopsis:

Present day:  Kate Stanley is a highly educated Shakespearean scholar and was offered the dream job of directing a production of Hamlet at the Globe in London.  During rehearsal, her old mentor Rosalind Howard gives her a box and a mysterious message.  The next day Rosalind is dead and someone has tried to burn the Globe to the ground.

Following Rosalind's message to keep the gift safe and "follow where it leads", Kate sets of in an adventure around the world, following cryptic messages, uncovering hidden truths about Shakespeare and his plays, while leaving a trail of dead bodies in her wake.

My thoughts:

If you are interested in Shakespeare or find the whole conspiracy theories surrounding Shakespeare's plays, then you'd probably enjoy this well-written romp.

I'll be honest that when I first read this book a few years ago, I didn't know as much about all the different theories surrounding Shakespeare.  I knew there were probably some missing plays, there were some debate if all the plays were written by Shakespeare, and that not much was known about him - even what he really looked like.

So instead of a traditional review, I'll post some links and photos of interesting things I learned.

First Folio: the collection of Shakespeare's works compiled AFTER his death.  If you find one of these you will be very rich...there were originally about 750 and now only 228.  So you could theoretically be very very lucky.

Cardenio - a possible lost play, possibly by Shakespeare and probably based on Don Quixote.  Which reminds me I should read Don Quixote at some point.

Shakespeare's portrait - what did he really look like?

Shakespeare's children - there are no direct descendants, the last living died in 1670.

His creepy tombstone with a curse!

The Shakespeare statue at Wilton House (go here for a picture)

Frances Carr - won't tell you much more but here's her portrait:
Frances Carr

Delia Bacon - smart lady who thought Sir Frances Bacon could be part of a Shakespearean collaboration.  Here's Sir Frances Bacon:

Sir Frances Bacon

Did you know Bacon developed a cipher?  Very interesting.

Edward de Vere - 17th Earl of Oxford  -- if you haven't checked out this guy's wiki page, he was such an interesting character.. I could see why some might think he could have been Shakespeare:
Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford

Simon Forman - what a weird interesting historical character.

Folger Shakespeare Library - beware of spending too much time at their gift shop site

And someday I WILL make it to Utah's Shakespeare Festival.  Why go to London when I can visit the Globe in the state next door?

Also, check out Jennifer Lee Carrell's website for some more fun Shakespearean links.

So the book was a good little mystery romp but what I really enjoyed was finding out all the interesting tidbits.  What do you think -- did Shakespeare write his plays or could it have been someone else?

Different cover art:

I believe this is the UK version:

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Map of Time Winner!

Wow, I know I'm quite a bit belated in announcing the winner of The Map of Time by Felix J Palma.  Without further ado...


Margaret is from Canada, has read The Lord of the Rings but would love to read The Lantern and her favorite cozy up and read drink is a hazelnut creme flavored coffee.  Mmmmm...a girl after my own heart.

Enjoy the book Margaret!

A Sound Among the Trees - Susan Meissner

Title: A Sound Among the Trees
Author: Susan Meissner
Paperback: 324 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook
Published Date: October 2011
FTC: Asked to review through Blogging for Books

I read a review of Susan Meissner's novel A Sound Among the Trees a few months back over at Luxury Reading and it sounded like a pretty good book.  I can't remember where I stumbled upon it, but I found out about Blogging for Books which offered this as one of their review books so I signed up.  I only request books I want to read and review.  Nice little deal.

Back of the book:

As a young bride, Susannah Page was rumored to be a Civil War spy for the North, a traitor to her Virginian roots.  Her great-granddaughter Adelaide, the current matriarch of Holly Oak, doesn't believe that Susannah's ghost haunts the antebellum mansion looking for a pardon, but rather that the house itself bears a grudge toward its tragic past.

When Marielle Bishop marries into the family and is transplanted from the arid west to her husband's home, she is soon led to believe that the house she's just settled into brings misfortune to the women who live there.

With Adelaide's richly peppered superstitions and deep family roots at stake, Marielle must sort out the truth about Susannah Page and Holly Oak -- and make peace with the sacrifices she has made for love.

My thoughts:

I'll admit that I love war novels and since this one centered around the Civil War in America it seemed like a good book.  At first I was really disappointed.  While great writing, the first few chapters revolved around Adelaide and Marielle.  I just wasn't getting interested in their story.  I mean yes - Adelaide struggled with an absentee daughter, the death of her granddaughter, and the new marriage of her grand son-in-law.  Marielle was going through a new marriage to a widowed man with two children and trying to fit into the home where not only the possibility of Civil War Susannah's ghost but also the memories of her husband's late wife.  I'll be honest that I picked it up and put it down quite a bit at first.


Then it started to get good.

First, Marielle finds the diary of her husband's late wife.

Then she reads Susannah's diary set against backdrop of the Civil War in Virginia.

That is when I couldn't put the book down and pretty much ignored my daily chores to finish it.  I loved reading Susannah's account.  I love the Civil War setting and how it depicts the often blurry lines between the North and the South.  It's fascinating to see the effects of war on families - even a war as old as the Civil War can have long lasting repercussions.  I loved the resolution at the end of the book - how just discovering the truth about Susannah affected her family generations down the line.


This book is sometimes found in Christian book listings.  While I am a Christian, I wouldn't classify this as Christian fiction.  However, it is a book with a good message and it is a book I could recommend to my mom or grandma.

I also love the cover with the mansion and the Civil War clothing.  What do you think?

Book Trailer

Also Reviewed by:

Luxury Reading
Dani's Bookshelf

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Redbreast - Jo Nesbø

Title: The Redbreast
Author: Jo Nesbø (author's website)
Paperback: 521 pages
Publisher: HarperCollins
Published Date: 2009 (original 2000)
FTC: Received free to review from publisher

Back when I lived in New York, I was invited by Harper Collins to a cool little bar to meet Jo Nesbø.  I had heard about him - a pretty famous crime writer from Norway.  I knew his books were starting to be translated to English and published in the States.  I think Harper did an amazing job with the translation (Don Bartlett) and the covers of the books.

I'd post photos from the event but I'll be honest that I didn't take any.  Sometimes I am hugely silly when it comes to famous people.  I get all nervous and lose my mind.  I will tell you that he was extremely nice, drinks Heineken, and said that it doesn't matter which book you read first but he'd go with The Redbreast.

The Redbreast is the third book in the Harry Hole series but it's the first one published in English.  I honestly don't know why it took me so long to read this book or series.  A long time ago I got interested in the whole Scandinavia crime writing thing.  I had checked out the book Smilla's Sense of Snow by Peter Hoeg.  Unfortunately I only got halfway through by the time I had to return the book but I was hooked.  I actually bought a copy later on and have been meaning to read it.  Anyway -- maybe it's because I used to live in Alaska and the whole Arctic culture is intriguing.  Whatever it is -- I am loving it.  Ok. After that incredibly long intro, here we go...

Back of the book:

Detective Harry Hole embarrassed the force, and for his sins he's been reassigned to mundane surveillance tasks.  But while monitoring neo-Nazi activities in Oslo, Hole is inadvertently drawn into a mystery with deep roots in Norway's dark past -- when members of the nation's government willingly collaborated with Nazi Germany.  More than sixty years later, this black mark won't wash away, and disgraced old soldiers who once survived a brutal Russian winter are being murdered, one by one.  Now, with only a stained and guilty conscience to guide him, an angry, alcoholic, error-prone policeman must make his way safely past the traps and mirrors of a twisted criminal mind.  For a hideous conspiracy is rapidly taking shape around Hole -- and Norway's darkest hour may still be to come.

My thoughts:

I ended up really liking this book and want to read more of the series.  But there are some things you must know going into it.

1) Detective Harry Hole -- Ok.  I can't be the only one who sniggered at the chosen name of the detective.  Whether it was something lost in translation or is meant to be funny, just go with it and smile.

2) It's a deceiving chunkster.  While it looks like a normal paperback, it is on my list as a chunkster at a good 521 pages.

3) It took me a little bit to get into the book.  I'll admit that.  While the writing is awesome, it took me a little bit to get into the story.  But once I did I was hooked.

4) I love WWII stories, so for me this was a fascinating look at Norway's involvement during WWII.  Again, this is another story which really rams home the idea that WWII did not just affect that one generation but is still having ramifications on subsequent generations and events.  I obviously think that it's more apparent in Europe and places where the fighting happened on their own soil rather than here in the USA.  The story has chapters interspersed with a character in WWII and I loved those.  It's a great writer who can make me like both the present day story AND the flashback story.  Bravo.

5) The "present day" story takes place in 1999 -- which is when Nesbø wrote the story.  I find it odd that while 1999 doesn't seem that far in the past to me (that's the year I graduated high school) how much the world has changed.

And more...

I have two more Nesbø books, Nemesis and The Devil's Star, on my shelf to read and I definitely want to get into them.

 I've been ogling the newest books in the series - especially The Snowman and The Leopard on Kirkus Reviews.

While I still haven't read the Dragon Tattoo series by Stieg Larsson -- I would assume that if you are a fan of Larsson's works, you'd appreciate Jo Nesbø's series.

I also found some alternate covers for The Redbreast.  I prefer my edition above but what are your thoughts?

Also Reviewed by:
Linus's Blanket  (She was at the HarperCollins event as well.  Awesome blogger.)

About Jo Nesbø:
Random Jottings of a Book and Opera Lover  found out she loves Nesbø's books
Bookfinds found an awesome article and photo of Nesbø's bookshelves
Check out Nesbø's author website - very cool

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Still here

Seriously, where has the time gone?  Somehow October and November have just flown by.  I'll post more in a day or two when I hopefully have a new desk!!  Yes, I think the desk I currently have is child size.  While it was free (always a good thing) I can't even fit my chair underneath.

What's been going on??  I have been reading more books and totally enjoying curling up on my chair while Rocket plays on his playmat.  Technically the RIP VI Challenge ended in October but I am still enjoying my darker books.  I even checked out Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children and the Woman in Black from the library.  Reviews coming up.  I'll be picking a winner of The Map of Time and shipping that out.

What else.  Rocket turned SIX months a few days ago and I can not believe how the time has flown by.  He continues to amaze me and constantly makes me laugh and smile.

We've had some family in town which is always fun and gets us out and about.  Here's little Rocket and me on our way to the Hoover Dam.  That's Lake Mead in the background.

That's it for now. Thanks for sticking around and I'll be posting more photos, reviews, and giveaways soon!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Map of Time Giveaway!

So I'm sitting here this morning, drinking a caramel soy latte (yeah I know but I have to lay off the dairy right now) - and I realized that I have a lovely giveaway for you all!!!

In honor of Carl's cool R.I.P. VI Challenge - I have an extra copy of The Map of Time by Felix J. Palma (check out my review) to give away to one lucky winner.

Like all my personal giveaways, this is open internationally.  Yep! I've sent books all over the world this is a nice chunkster.  So come on and enter!!  The contest is open through November 13th.

Here's the requirements:

1. Enter the form below ONLY.
2. You MUST leave an email address -- if I don't hear back in five days I pick a new winner.
3. You MUST head over to Carl's RIP VI Challenge site and tell me if you are now or ever been a participant, then tell me some of the books from the challenge that you've read or wanted to read.The review site is also a good place to check out people's reviews on a ton of books.
4. You MUST answer this: during the autumn and winter months, while sitting and reading a good book, what is your favorite tasty beverage to curl up with?
5. Good luck!!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Map of Time - Felix J. Palma

Title: The Map of Time
Author: Felix J. Palma
Hardcover: 609 pages
Publisher: Atria Books
Published Date: June 2011
FTC: Received/won from Atria via Shelf Awareness

I was beyond excited when I received a copy of The Map of Time in the mail.  The cover is just simply amazing.  This is simply one of the many reasons why I love physical books.  The end paper is gorgeous as well.  Check out the picture I snapped at the end of the post.  Anyway.  The book deals with classic authors, the Victorian era, Jack the Ripper, time travel...I was sold.

The synopsis from GoodReads:

The Map of Time by Felix J. Palma. Set in Victorian London with characters real and imagined, The Map of Time is a page-turner that boasts a triple play of intertwined plots in which a skeptical H.G. Wells is called upon to investigate purported incidents of time travel and to save lives and literary classics, including Dracula and The Time Machine, from being wiped from existence. What happens if we change history?

My thoughts:

The first thing you'll notice is this book is a chunkster.  It's beautifully bound but at just over six hundred pages, it can be a bit daunting.  The good thing is that it is actually a quick read.  I thought the GoodReads synopsis was quite a bit - well if not misleading then a little simplistic for what the book really was about.  I don't want to give too much away so I'll try to be as enigmatic as possible and still get across my ideas.

The book is divided into three parts.  The narrator is this omniscient person who sees all and sometimes talks to the reader.  I usually find this pretty fun and this was no exception.  Part One deals with wealthy Andrew Harrington.  He is planning on killing himself.  The reasons involve Jack the Ripper, a prostitute -- again I don't want to give too much away.  Very early on we learn that it's been a year since Jack the Ripper was caught.  (What?!)

The story includes a gentlemen in London who claims to have found a way to travel to the year 2000 when the automatons have pretty much razed the world (again ???).  He sets up a business called Murray's Time Travel where wealthy travelers can take a day trip to the year 2000 and see a famous battle.   Part two deals more with Murray's Time Travel and a wealthy girl named Claire who wants to escape the drudgery of being a woman in the Victorian era.

As you can see.  Quite not what I was expecting.  I talked a little bit to a fellow blogger who was also reading The Map of Time and wasn't quite sure if she was liking it or not.  I said....I totally understand but hang in there until Part Three.  O yeah.  Totally worth it.  While Parts One and Two were well written and entertaining --- it just wasn't turning out to be the book I wanted.  That's always dangerous to go into a book with certain expectations.  HOWEVER ---- Part Three totally shifted everything into a whole different focus and totally made me end up - if not loving the book then being exactly the kind of book I was wanting to read.

To sum it up:

Parts One and Two are a bit odd.  Entertaining but odd.  Part Three rocks.  I loved that H.G. Wells really is a major player throughout the book.  Historical and literary characters such as Bram Stoker, Henry James, Jack the Ripper, and Joseph Merrick (the elephant man).  I loved learning new things like the real automata dolls built by Jaquet-Droz (seriously check out the link...weird...).

I didn't like that it took until Part Three for me to really enjoy the book (about five hundred pages).  It's not that the rest wasn't entertaining - but I kept eying other books on the shelf.  That and every so often I'd think that something was a bit juvenile - for instance when Claire first meets Captain Shackleton (I'm trying not to have any spoilers so that's all I'll say - but if you've read the book then you'd see what I mean).

So there we go.  Quite an interesting read and quite the perfect Autumn read for the R.I.P. VI Challenge.

Another cool cover:

As I was persusing the internet, it looks like this may be the first book in a trilogy.  This would surprise me because it seemed like a very much stand-alone type of book.  Anyone know anything about this?

As promised, here's the gorgeous end covers of the book.  Lovely, right?

Head over to the book's website for some cool stuff.  I have the wallpaper on my laptop and he has a cool list of Additional Reading for time travel/Victorian stuff - like Jack Finney's books.  I love when author's do that.

Also Reviewed by:

Book Chatter
Alive on the Shelves
At Home with Books
Fyrefly's Book Blog

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Lantern - Group Read Week 1

As part of the R.I.P. VI Challenge, Carl is hosting a few group reads and I decided to join along in reading The Lantern by Deborah Lawrenson. I saw that my library had The Lantern available for an eAudio download so I requested it.  Unfortunately the request expired yesterday so I had to scurry to read listen to the book a little ahead of the read-a-long schedule. I'm still going to respond to the questions but it might be a little odd since I've finished the book.

Here we go!  Watch out for SPOILERS!!!!

1. This may seem like an obvious opening question, but what do you think of The Lantern thus far?

I adored this book. Part 1 started off a little slow but my favorite parts where 2 and 3.  This Week only goes over Parts 1 and 2.  Overall - the sights, the sounds = Beautiful and Inspiring.

2. The book appears to be following the experiences of two different women, alternating back and forth between their stories. Are you more fond of our main protagonist’s story or of Benedicte’s or are you enjoying them both equally?

I was reading Carl's response over at Stainless Steel Droppings and he mentioned that he was having a hard time following who was talking - Eve or Benedicte - except that once you get into it, the chapter breaks help.  I think this is what makes the audio version an awesome pick for this story.  Eve and Benedicte are narrated by different ladies and they both have such beautiful voices!  I think I may have perfered one over the other if I was reading, but the fact that they did such a wonderful audio job with the story....I love their stories equally. That's is a huge rarity for me. 

The other odd note: I think if I was reading the story it would have taken me a bit to realize that Benedicte was female.  Anyone have this happen?

Also, the lady who narrates Eve - my gosh she has an awesome voice. I'm not sure which of the two ladies it is (Kristine Ryan or Gerrianne Raphael) but her voice reminds me a lot of this actress so that is what I kind of picture Eve looking like:
That's Eva Green who was born and raised in Paris so great pick for all the beautiful French words and accent in the story!

The short chapters work VERY well in the audio version because it feels like time is passing so quickly while listening and I don't get as distracted as easily.  Perfect.

3. The Lantern is a book filled with descriptions of scents. How are you liking (or disliking) that aspect of the book? How do you feel about the lavish description of scents? How are the short chapters working for you?

I think this has to be my absolute favorite part of the book (aside from the lovely narrators).  The scents are amazing! I actually told my husband (and he agrees) that our future plans for our backyard should be Provincial themed.  Grapes, lavender, rosemary, citrus fruit, sunflowers, etc.  Here's the grape vine we already have growing thanks to our neighbors who replaced it in favor of an olive tree:

I can not wait to do some planning for next year. It's a challenge growing anything in Las Vegas but this book inspired me to want our backyard to smell like this book.  Odd thing to say but there it is.

4. How would you describe the atmosphere of Parts 1 and 2 of The Lantern?

I think Part 1 had a slow build - a languor about it. Sleepy summery feel. Definitely not what you'd expect Gothic to be which I always feel is cold and dreary.  But it really starts to pick up the creepy Gothic feeling in Part 2.  Beautiful writing.

5. Has anything surprised you to this point? Anything stand out?

While I've read that some people had to warm up to Eve...I loved her from the very beginning.  She's a reader. A writer. Able to just amuse herself for hours with a good book or just working quietly on the house. I don't find her quick involvement with Dom very surprising at all.  I feel that's how I am.  You don't find connections with people all that much but when you do - you know it and just jump right in.  I also didn't find the seclusion odd. I'm not sure I'd like it forever, but a beautiful house I have ooodles of money to restore and just read and play in the garden....seems like paradise to me! The main creepiness of the story, I feel, has pretty much all to do with Benedicte's story.  Pierre! I find him already an insanely horrible character.   

Almost forgot to add!!! At the beginning of the book - Dom and Eve seem to be hiding out. It starts the story very ominously and I kept imagining the time period being pre-WWI or pre-WWII.  In reality it is present day which almost threw me but then I loved because what is it about the writing that makes it seems so old-timey or instant classic feel to it. 

6. What are your feelings about Dom in these first two sections of the story?

I liked Dom.  I am surprised that I don't find him odd or creepy.  The only bizarre thing is that we don't really know Eve's real name.  Her name doesn't come up all that often (as narrator that isn't surprising) but I wonder if I'd just let someone call me some random name that wasn't mine.  Perhaps her name is similar??

Bonus question: Did anyone else hear “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again” ringing in their ears through the first sections of the book?

Oh definitely!  But in a good way! I don't think she stole the idea from Rebecca or it's TOO much like it or not enough like it.  I was expecting this comparison and it seems like it was the author's intent to be a bit like Rebecca.  I love love Rebecca the book and the movie so it's wonderful that I don't think any less of The Lantern at all.  The only problem is that I am not wary of Dom like I'd probably be without Rebecca because I have read and seen Rebecca.

Some Read-a-long People:

Stainless Steel Droppings
Capricious Reader
Estella's Revenge
Check out more at the end of Carl's post

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Name of the Wind - Patrick Rothfuss

Title: The Name of the Wind (Kingkiller Chronicles Day 1)
Author: Patrick Rothfuss
Audio: narrated by Nick Podehl
Published date: May 2009 (first published March 2007)
Publisher: Brilliance Audio (27 hours, 54 minutes)
FTC: library audio rental

I can't remember where I first heard about Patrick Rothfuss' book The Name of the Wind.  Isn't the cover just gorgeous?  I know that I definitely saw Carl's post at Stainless Steel Droppings.  I thought I read something over at Pat's Fantasy Hotlist but I can't find it.  Go over there for some awesome Sci-Fi/Fantasy titles to add to your to-read lists.  Anyway, my brother also works part-time at a bookstore so we were discussing this book the other day.  I figured, while in the fantasy genre, The Name of the Wind would probably be a good fit for the R.I.P. VI Challenge.  So I checked it out at the library as an e-audio rental.

The Synopsis:

Told in Kvothe's own voice, this is the tale of the magically gifted young man who grows to be the most notorious wizard his world has ever seen.The intimate narrative of his childhood in a troupe of traveling players, his years spent as a near-feral orphan in a crime-ridden city, his daringly brazen yet successful bid to enter a legendary school of magic, and his life as a fugitive after the murder of a king form a gripping coming-of-age story unrivaled in recent literature. A high-action story written with a poet's hand, The Name of the Wind is a masterpiece that will transport readers into the body and mind of a wizard.

My Thoughts:

I find reviewed audio books SO hard.  I have such a different perspective when I listen to a book than when I read it.  I had a lot of cleaning in the house to catch up on and family coming in to town so I decided that a 27+ hour audio book would do the trick.  You read that right.  That's a LOT of audio book.  So I'm going to do my break down of what I liked and what I didn't.

The Good:

You can't deny that Patrick Rothfuss can write - or more aptly is a brilliant story-teller.  The story starts out in a darkly lit bar reminiscent of olden days when people came in on horse and ordered a mug of cider and some gruel.  Anyway.  Something is going on.  Days being what they are, it isn't safe to be traveling alone...or at all.  The modern cover of the book with the wind/storm setting is just perfect.  You want to curl up by a fireplace and absorb the story.  Kvothe (pronounced Kote) is telling his story to a chronicler who's only job is to write down the story.  What a story.

The audio narrator, Nick Podehl, is awesome.  He is so good I Googled him to see what else he's done.  There's some narrators who lose my attention, are distracting, or I just get lost in their accent or pronunciation.  Not so with Mr Podehl.  He kept my attention the entire 27+ hours.  Very well done.

The uniqueness of the tale.  I've read some sci-fi/fantasy stuff and don't let anyone tell you this is like Harry Potter for adults or blah blah blah.  This story is good enough to stand on its own and leave it at that.

The Bad:

I'll be honest.  The length is intimidating and sometimes unnecessary.  Yes it's a great story but seriously - do I want to invest 27+ hours or 662 pages on just the FIRST book of the series?  I mean the whole story ends book one after his first year in school.  There was a HUGE section of Kvothe living as a street urchin after he lost his parents that I almost lost interest.  Perhaps some editing or abridging may be necessary.  Also, listening to the audio brings a different perspective and sometimes I'd hear the same phrase a few minutes later.  Ok ok I get it.

Kvothe.  Ok.  He's a great character but since he IS the one narrating his own story he CAN come across as a bit big-headed.  There are a few times he uses the "I doubt you'd understand" if you've never (insert his accomplishments here - playing music instrument, been in a dark cave, etc.) which irked me.  Don't tell me I'd probably not grasp how amazing it feels to be you.  Silly I know but it bothered me.

Kvothe's love interest Denna.  She was kind of irritating.  Such a player and always on the look out for a wealthy "patron/benefactor" that I couldn't help think she was a bit of a "lady of the night" kind of girl. 

Interesting notes:

I had no clue that this book originally was published in 2007 (check wiki page) and had this cover:

Yeah.  Kvothe has red hair - so I'll give it that - but while I'd pick up the new version with the cool cover, I'd probably NEVER have picked up this book.

Also, book two just came out called The Wise Man's Fear.

While I'd love to continue the story, at the hardcover's 994 pages, I'm not sure when I'll get around to it.  You can read an excerpt over at Pat's Fantasy Hotlist.

I almost forgot to add - Patrick Rothfuss' Kingkiller Chronicles are on NPR's Top 100 Sci-Fi/Fantasy so I can say I've read some of this series now.  

Did this book fit in with the RIP VI Challenge requirements?  I think so!  It fit the "dark fantasy" requirements and a perfect Autumn read.

While searching for other reviews, I found this alternate cover.  What do you think?

Also reviewed by:

Stainless Steel Droppings
Entomology of a Bookworm
Capricious Reader
Where Trouble Melts Like Lemon Drops
Library Queue
Pat's Fantasy Hotlist (Shawn Speakman video interview w/ Patrick Rothfuss)
Pat's Fantasy Hotlist (Jim Butcher video interview w/ Patrick Rothfuss)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Falling Together - Marisa de los Santos

Title: Falling Together
Author: Marisa de los Santos
Advanced Reader's Edition: 358 pages
Publisher: Harper Collins
Published date: October 4, 2011
FTC: received from publisher

I can truly say that I love Marisa de los Santos' books.  I've read Belong to Me (my review) and have been meaning to read her first book Love Walked In.  So when I saw that Book Club Girl was doing a live chat on October 5th, I asked to read and review her book.  If you've never read her books, I'd strongly suggest picking one up.  Isn't the cover gorgeous?

By the way, Falling Together is out as of today so check it out! I saw that Shelf Awareness Maximum is talking about her today as well so head over there to check it out.

Back of the book:

What would you do if an old friend needed you, but it meant turning your new life upside down? 

Pen, Will, and Cat met during the first week of their first year of college and struck up a remarkable friendship, one that sustained them and shaped them for years - until it ended abruptly, and they went their separate ways. Now, six years later, Pen is the single mother of a five-year-old girl, living with her older brother in Philadelphia and trying to make peace with the sudden death of her father. Even though she feels deserted by Will and Cat, she has never stopped wanting them back in her life, so when she receives an email from a desperate-sounding Cat asking her to meet her at their upcoming college reunion, Pen goes. What happens there sends past and present colliding and sends Pen and her friends on a journey across the world, a journey that will change everything.

My thoughts: 

I could never quite grasp just why I adore Marisa de los Santos' novels.  I'm not a huge chick-lit reader.  The stories are never insanely crazy unique...but there is something I adore.  While reading Shelf Awareness Maximum today and reading an interview with Marisa, I found out that she originally studied, wrote, and published poetry before she wrote novels.  That's it!! Her writing is just so beautiful.  I picked this book up and seriously read it in two days.  Sometimes I would read out loud to my little guy while he was on his play mat and her words just rolled off the page like poetry.  I see why now!

The other thing about Falling Together that I loved is that the main characters take a trip to Cebu City, Philippines.  Before reading this book, I never knew that Marisa de los Santos was part Filipino and travels there from time to time.  She mentioned in the interview that she hopes the book makes people want to go there.  O yeah it does.  The sounds, fragrances, food!!!  Mmmm.  Head over to the interview for a recipe for Puto Mayo with Mangoes.

Check out Marisa de los Santos on Facebook, her website, and head over to Book Club Girl on Blog Talk Radio tomorrow for the show at 7 PM EST.  

Also Reviewed by:

S. Krishna's Books
Booking Mama

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Road - Cormac McCarthy

Title: The Road
Author: Cormac McCarthy
Hardcover: 241 pages
Publisher: Knopf
Published Date: September 2006
FTC: bought at library book sale

Cormac McCarthy is one of those authors I've always wanted to check out.  Besides The Road, he wrote No Country for Old Men, All the Pretty Horses, and Blood Meridian.  It seems as if he writes mainly about the western expansion period in American history.  I am absolutely fascinated with that time era - I even took a history of the American West class.  However, The Road doesn't deal with the past but the future.

My synopsis:

In the not so distant future, a father and son and traveling by foot along the road trying to get to the coast.  The world has burned.  Why? Who knows. Does it really matter?  What matters is survival and maintaining humanity.

My thoughts:

The first thing I noticed while reading The Road is the brevity of the sentences.  I'll admit that it took me a bit to switch gears to get into this kind of writing. For instance, page 14

In the morning they went on. Desolate country. A boardhide nailed to a barndoor. Ratty. Wisp of a tail. Inside the barn three bodies hanging from the rafters, dried and dusty among the wan slats of light.

See what I mean?  Some sentences aren't even sentences.  They are a word or two.  There's no chapters.  Just short paragraphs.  The father and son talk to each other but there isn't a huge amount of it.  They are just the man and the boy - no names.
While it may take a few pages to get into the rhythm of the writing, it definitely works.  The writing sucks you in.  Time ceases to exist.  Since there are no chapters there is a lack of time frame in the book and days or weeks could pass with a single sentence.  I found it absolutely absorbing.

The only only problem I had with this book is that I watched the movie a while back so I knew what to expect.  I shouldn't have done that. It totally ruined the slow build to the culmination of the story.  If you HAVE read the book or don't plan on reading it - watch the movie.  From what I remember they did an amazing job adapting the story.

I also found the story making me think a lot about life.  I just had a son - he's about 18 weeks old right now and it makes you think.  How far would you go to protect your son? If it was life or death situation, could you take the life of your child to protect him/her?  So scary.  I was fascinated with what happened to the mother of the boy.  No spoilers here - but her decision was interesting - I could totally understand and at the same time never fathom what she decided to do.

Side note: I also loved that he made the son - born after whatever happened to the world - to be such a truly good person.  While the desperate time brought out the worst in most of humanity, it was wonderful to see this little boy maintain his humanity and compassion. 

Does this book fit the RIP Challenge requirements?  Absolutely.  There was a moment when I was reading the book - completely dark bedroom with just my book light - my husband and son sleeping nearby - and I was terrified.

This book also gets me going on the NPR Top 100 Sci Fi/Fantasy list - totally agree it belongs on the list.

And because I watched the movie first, the father will always be Viggo Mortensen:

Also Reviewed By:

Medieval Bookworm

Friday, September 23, 2011

European Queens Giveaway Winners!

I have been absolutely horribly belated in picking the winners for the European Queens Giveaway.  You can check out my reviews for Reign of Madness and Becoming Marie Antoinette.

Without further ado, the winner of Becoming Marie Antoinette is:

Marie at Boston Bibliophile (great blog, go check her out)

The winner of Reign of Madness is:

Colleen T.

I'll be sending emails out stat and thanks to everyone who entered!!  Thank you TLC Book Tours for letting me read, review and give away such awesome books.  Stay tuned for more giveaways!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Arrow Chest - Robert Parry

Title: The Arrow Chest
Author: Robert Parry
Paperback: 332 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace
Published Date: January 2011

I love that I picked this one up as my first R.I.P. Challenge read.  What a wonderful Victorian Gothic story.  Take a struggling artist, throw in a muse, and a little Anne Boleyn ghost story and you've got The Arrow Chest.  By the way....Anne Boleyn was buried in a chest built for arrows because it fit her small size sans head - thus the title.  Spooky, right?

Back of the book:

London, 1876. The painter Amos Roselli is in love with his life-long friend and model, the beautiful Daphne - and she with him - until one day she is discovered by another man, a powerful and wealthy industrialist. What will happen when Daphne realizes she has sacrificed her happiness to a loveless marriage? What will happen when the artist realizes he has lost his most cherished source of inspiration? And how will they negotiate the ever-increasing frequency of strange and bizarre events that seem to be driving them inexorably towards self-destruction. Here, amid the extravagant Neo-Gothic culture of Victorian England, the iconic poem ‘The Lady of Shalott’ blends with mysterious and ghostly glimpses of Tudor history. Romantic, atmospheric and deeply dark.

My thoughts:

This book hooked me right from the start.  It has one of the best intros I've read in a long while. It starts with Amos Roselli called in to sketch what is believed to be the bones of Anne Boleyn.  Then something ghostly happens.  I don't want to tell you much though.  It was such an awesome creepy start to kick off the Gothic story.  Amos Roselli is then summoned by his friend muse, Daphne, to come visit and paint her wealthy husband.

I have to say that have yet to be disappointed with Robert Parry's writing.  His novel Virgin and the Crab (my review) is the best book on Queen Elizabeth I that I have yet to read.  I love that Roselli and Daphne are such lovely characters.  Being a painter and a woman possibly marrying for money, they could have been annoying and trite but they weren't.  My favorite character was the wonderfully loyal young housekeeper of Roselli's, Beth.  While I was expecting a slightly more ghost story and a bit more Anne Boleyn creepiness - the subtleness of the similarities between Daphne and Anne Boleyn was by far more impressive.  With beautifully written and engaging characters, The Arrow Chest was the perfect Victorian Gothic tale to jump start the Autumn and RIP season.

By the way, I adore Pre-Raphaelites and I thought Roselli was an awesome fictional painter.  I was Googling around and found this painting:

From Scandalous Women

This is what I imagine Daphne to look like in the book.  Anyone know who painted it or who it is?

*** Robert Parry emailed me after I wrote this review and I'm just going to include what he wrote:

Dear Amanda,
Just to say a big Thank You for your review of The Arrow Chest yesterday - which I thought was just delightful, and I am so pleased you enjoyed reading it. I really like the painting you discovered, by the way. I asked a few art wizards on Facebook if they could identify it and they came up with the Victorian actress Lillie Langtry, painted by Sir Edward John Poynter in 1877. So spot on in terms of timing - the very year in which most of the action in the story takes place. I have a photo album on Facebook of fantasy illustrations for the Arrow Chest, and I am going to add this to it.

With Kind Regards,

***How cool is that coincidence?  Check out the Facebook page for The Arrow Chest - I'm perusing the photos there right now.

Just a side note:

Being a tad bit of a cover snob, I was curious about this unique cover. It honestly is perfectly dark but not my favorite.  I do love though that in the inside of the book it says the picture is "Daphne" by Amos Roselli.  Ok.  That's pretty cool even though someone wrote on this post of mine that it looked like her 1987 prom dress.  What do you think?

Also Reviewed By:

Maelgwns Muse
Historical Fiction & Q&A
Luxury Reading & Guest Post
Historical Tapestry  & Why Robert Parry Loves Pre-Raphelites
So Many Precious Books, So Little Time
Peeking Between the Pages (Robert Parry Guest Post)