Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Book Review - Mary Roach's Spook

Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife by Mary Roach
Published by: W.W. Norton and Company
Publication Date: 2005
Format: Paperback, 311 Pages
Rating: ★★
To Buy
Mary Roach is taking a look into proof of an afterlife. Many numerous people have had experiences, but is there any scientific way to give these experiences the seal of approval? The idea of what happens to, for want of a better word, your soul, has captured imaginations for centuries. The hope that there is something more beyond this world we are currently living in is the basis of many belief systems. Can one prove that they have truly been reincarnated and does a cultural predisposition for this belief lead to more cases? Does the soul have a location in our body and when it leaves does the weight of the body change on an infinitesimal scale? Mediums in every form are discussed, as are the various revolting methods in which they fooled their public. Even more modern methods of telecommunicating with the dead are explored, from telegrams to computers, tape recorders to telephones. Mary Roach explores all the possibilities, and though this is a book that no answer can be found, at least not yet, there is a chance, Mary has to concede, that she believes that something exists, she's not sure what, but it's more than a denial, and that's something.

More than most people, at least I assume that spending lots of spare time reading about Spiritualism and how your soul was weighed in Ancient Egypt isn't par for the course for most people, going into this book I had a lot of foreknowledge, as well as my own personal thoughts of the afterlife. Firstly I'll state my own beliefs, in that, yes, I do believe in ghosts, because I've seen some and been scared shitless. As for the whole heaven, I think heaven is reincarnation, in that life is the most wonderful thing out there so heaven would be getting to live again. Also the fact that I have an unnatural fear of dust storms and I have no other explanation as to why they scar the shit out of me. Purgatory, yep, totally believe in it and think that it's like in Beetlejuice. I do agree with Mary's statement that your knowledge or beliefs are formed from those around you, and my Dad was a big teller of ghost stories, but being raised Catholic he had the heaven and hell dogma, whereas mine came from my own thoughts and conclusions.

So yeah, I have all my own baggage, on top of the fact that the whole Spiritualism craze is just fascinating to me and I have spent tons of time reading about Arthur Conan Doyle and Houdini and the Cottingley Fairies. Therefore, going in, I was expecting some new insight, some revelation, something more than an occasional laugh out loud moment. I will concede, there where laugh out loud moments, one in particular about a sheep, but that's just me and my love of sheep jokes. The truth might lie in the fact that I'm not a non-fiction reader and I think one of my problems is that I need some sort of narrative framework. I need this to be somehow bookended so that I don't feel like I'm reading little sound bites that only vaguely fit into the overall theme. I was hoping for, at the very least, some more background, some more depth. Roach sometimes assumes that people will know what she's talking about when there really needs to be some prior knowledge or facts given, she seems more interested in getting to the joke or the oddity or rapidly ending the chapter than shedding light. This makes the book jumpy to me. Why not some more cultural significance and history as to the search for the soul and how this played into our cultures instead of little stories about a few people she interviewed or researched. She seemed to have narrowed her focus too much so that the bigger picture was lost.

As I have said, people have always wondered about the afterlife, and she does hit the big bold headlines, past lives, Spiritualism, mediums, phone calls from the dead, yet she never seems to discuss the why. Why are people so obsessed with this. Why are we so determined to prove that there is more than this. A psychological grounding to the rise of Spiritualism should be conveyed in depth in my mind instead of a throw away line about The Great War's death toll leading to people looking for life beyond the veil. Instead she focuses on the gory details of ectoplasm, which I think might have scared me for life. There is just so much more that I was hoping to experience and instead, this was like a primer for someone who knew nothing about the various theories and research on the afterlife and just wanted to have fun facts or anecdotes for dinner parties. Perhaps I should have realized that the books popularity is because of it's accessibly versus a weightier discussion of the afterlife.

What really annoyed me though is that where Roach deigns to have a narrative, the book flows and comes together, and moves away from it's fact jumping nature that gives you names and humorous stories so fast that you don't care what is being said and you start to gloss over the names. Her discussion of actually going to Medium School was wonderful and way too short. In fact, the school itself could have acted as a framework for the other ideas and theories to flow through. All in all, it was an interesting book that just wasn't my cup of tea because I wanted something more, and also, sometimes Roach's attitude was too much for me when she showed a lack of respect. There's humor and than there's being rude and blowing someone off. I think Mary Roach didn't like Alison DuBois one little bit, and that stuck in my craw.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Tuesday Tomorrow

The Teleportation Accident by Ned Beauman
Published by: Bloomsbury
Publication Date: February 26th, 2013
Format: Hardcover, 368 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"When you haven’t had sex in a long time, it feels like the worst thing that could ever happen.

If you’re living in Germany in the 1930s, it probably isn’t.

But that’s no consolation to Egon Loeser, whose carnal misfortunes will push him from the experimental theaters of Berlin to the absinthe bars of Paris to the physics laboratories of Los Angeles, trying all the while to solve two mysteries: Was it really a deal with Satan that claimed the life of his hero, Renaissance set designer Adriano Lavicini, creator of the so-called Teleportation Device? And why is it that a handsome, clever, modest guy like him can’t—just once in a while—get himself laid?

From Ned Beauman, the author of the acclaimed Boxer, Beetle, comes a historical novel that doesn’t know what year it is; a noir novel that turns all the lights on; a romance novel that arrives drunk to dinner; a science fiction novel that can’t remember what isotope means; a stunningly inventive, exceptionally funny, dangerously unsteady and (largely) coherent novel about sex, violence, space, time, and how the best way to deal with history is to ignore it.

Looks like it will have a Cabaret/ Christopher Isherwood vibe. Not to mention that cover that is to die for.

Death of Yesterday by M.C. Beaton
Published by: Grand Central Publishing
Publication Date: February 26th, 2013
Format: Hardcover, 272 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"When a local woman tells Sergeant Hamish Macbeth that she doesn't remember what happened the previous evening, he doesn't begin to worry. She had been out drinking, after all, and he'd prefer not to be bothered with such an arrogant and annoying woman. But when her body is discovered, Hamish is forced to investigate a crime that the only known witness--now dead--had forgotten."

For my mom, her yearly Hamish Macbeth quota.

Lady of Ashes by Christine Trent
Published by: Kensington
Publication Date: February 26th, 2013
Format: Hardcover, 384 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"In 1861 London, Violet Morgan is struggling to establish a good reputation for the undertaking business that her husband has largely abandoned. She provides comfort for the grieving, advises them on funeral fashion and etiquette, and arranges funerals. Unbeknownst to his wife, Graham, who has nursed a hatred of America since his grandfather soldiered for Great Britain in the War of 1812, becomes involved in a scheme to sell arms to the South. Meanwhile, Violet receives the commission of a lifetime: undertaking the funeral for a friend of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. But her position remains precarious, especially when Graham disappears and she begins investigating a series of deaths among the poor. And the closer she gets to the truth, the greater the danger for them both..."

This sounds like spooky awesome Victorian fun! I know the whole undertakers might not seem fun to most, but this sounds like fun to me!

Come Along With Me by Shirley Jackson
Published by: Penguin
Publication Date: February 26th, 2013
Format: Paperback, 288 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"A haunting and psychologically driven collection from Shirley Jackson that includes her best-known story "The Lottery"

At last, Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" enters Penguin Classics, sixty-five years after it shocked America audiences and elicited the most responses of any piece in New Yorker history. In her gothic visions of small-town America, Jackson, the author of such masterworks as The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle, turns an ordinary world into a supernatural nightmare. This eclectic collection goes beyond her horror writing, revealing the full spectrum of her literary genius. In addition to Come Along with Me, Jackson's unfinished novel about the quirky inner life of a lonely widow, it features sixteen short stories and three lectures she delivered during her last years."

Ok, I couldn't care less about her famous stories, they're all in my American Library edition. What I'm excited for it "Come Along with Me"... which every time I read the title I think of the Torchwood episode with the faeries... come away with us human child...

Fables the Deluxe Edition Book 6 by Bill Willingham
Published by: Vertigo
Publication Date: February 26th, 2013
Format: Hardcover, 224 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Bill Willingham's hit series FABLES continues here, for the first time in hardcover. In FABLES: THE DELUXE EDITION BOOK 5, the threat of the Adversary looms ever closer as the drums of war begins its steady beat. The Fables prepare for battle, but first they need to find their would-be commander: Bigby Wolf!"

While this wasn't my favorite of the comics, who couldn't be tempted by these beautiful deluxe editions, especially if you are used to the dog eared copies from the library like I am...

Friday, February 22, 2013

Book Review - Shirley Jackson's We Have Always Lived in the Castle

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
Published by: Library of America
Publication Date: 1962
Format: Hardcover, 832 Pages
Rating: ★★★
To Buy
"Merricat, said Connie, would you like a cup of tea?
Oh no, said Merricat, you'll poison me.
Merricat, said Connie, would you like to go to sleep?
Down in the boneyard ten feet deep!"

Mary Katherine Blackwood, called Merricat, and her sister Constance, have lived their life for the past six years shut away from the world caring for their Uncle Julian. Their only other companion is Merricat's cat Jonas. Merricat is the only one ever to leave the house, on Tuesdays and Fridays, which are bad days. As she walks to the store she can feel the eyes watching her. A good tip into town is one with minimal contact with the outside world, a bad trip is one that ends in taunting. The three remaining Blackwoods have been beyond the bounds of society behind the fence that Constance and Merricat's father erected before that fateful and fatal dinner. Constance was arrested six years ago because she was the only one who didn't use the sugar laced with the cyanide. Constance was the only one to survive that dinner without any aftereffects... Julian survived, but he was never able to walk again and his mind wanders, though that night never leaves him. Julian is dedicating what remains of his life to recount that final day. The day when he lost four of his family members, one of them his wife.

The aftermath of Constance's acquittal, despite everyone believing in her guilt, was that she shut out the world. Connie never ventures past her garden anymore. She spends her time cooking and looking after her two charges, keeping the world locked out. Merricat is just as paranoid of others as Constance, but she has buried treasure and symbolic items scattered throughout their land in a type of rustic magic to ward off everyone. One day she finds that her wards have failed and at that moment there is a knock on the door. Their cousin Charles has arrived. His branch of the Blackwoods severed all connections at the time of the trial, not even willing to take Merricat in, that night she was sent to bed without dinner and though it saved her life, it meant she was banished to an orphanage for a time. Charles does not have the best of intentions. He is avaricious, only seeing the money in everything and in his alliance with Connie, Julian and Merricat are just obstacles to move out of his way, nothing more. But Merricat won't go down without a fight. She has a feeling that it will be her left in the house with Constance, not Charles. Charles should remember, bad things have been known to happen to members of the Blackwood family.

This book is the most terrifying and accurate story of paranoia I think I have ever read. There's a part of me that is very antisocial and would rather be left to my books. I have easily gone a week without leaving the house and I can see some things in Merricat that I can relate to in her OCD behaviours. Yet, I find that this book has kind of cured me of all those feelings, at least on a cognitive level. All paranoia and agoraphobia has to face the test of implementation. It's all well and good to think you're ok, but you never know though until you try. Constance does try, but such a man as Charles as her "saviour" could never work, I was hoping he might go the way of the previous Blackwood, though more painfully, and Constance has Merricat. Merricat is 18 in this book, yet her behaviour is more like that of a 12 year old, her emotional development and well being stunted when the poisoning happened. Constance wonders if she was right to shut Merricat away from the world, but it seems to me a mutual decision. Merricat, despite being more willing to leave the house, is really suffering more, and very much a sociopath. She has far more rituals and dark thoughts than Constance ever had. There is the rigid schedule to maintain, there are the coins buried in the river bank, the doll under the rock, the blue marbles, and the book that was nailed to the tree. Even when Merricat isn't checking on them her thoughts dwell on the powers these items give her, the layer of protection she has. Like a person who has to turn the light on and off so many times before leaving, Merricat's life is built around these rituals that have evolved around her to protect the two sisters, who, despite everything, deeply love each other.

Yet, while their isolation from the world seems odd and haunting, it is not without cause. The villagers, more than the crime, made them what they are, or at least exacerbated the situation enough to cause them to turn inward. Coming to the house, taunting, cat calling, daring each other to go to the house where everyone died. Asking Connie to come out so they can see what a mass murderer looks like. "Merricat, said Connie, would you like a cup of tea?" Childish glee in their hatred of the hoity-toity and reclusive sisters is evident in the villagers. At the end of the book, when the villagers have to reluctantly help the sisters, they take the opportunity to unleash their "everyday evil." Because the poisoning only hurt the immediate family, while the bile that is brewing in the town has far greater scope. The mob mentality of people who appear normal is a far scarier thing than two agoraphobic girls peering through slits in the windows at a life they will never have nor want.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Book Review - Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Published by: Doubleday
Publication Date: September 13th, 2011
Format: Hardcover, 400 Pages
Rating: ★★★★★
To Buy
Celia and Marco have been bound to each other long before they knew of the other. Two men have pitted them against each other. The man in the grey suit picked Marco out of an orphanage, while the magician Prospero chose his own daughter. For years they study and train in solitude what people who don't know better would call magic. They don't know the rules or how a winner will be chosen, yet one day, they finally learn the venue, a circus will be their battleground. Not just any circus! This circus is what Merlin is to a stage magician and his mechanical apparatus. Only the preeminent performers are chosen to live in a world of black and white. To travel the world as a member of Le Cirque des Rêves. Celia travels with the circus as their illusionist, hiding in plain sight, as it where. Because no one could believe what she does is real. Marco prefers to work behind the scenes as the assistant to the proprietor, Chandresh. Marco knows from the first time he sees her that Celia is his opponent, while Celia, for the longest time, is only responding to his moves, not knowing her opponent.

As time moves forward, Celia and Marco become less certain of their objectives, being drawn more and more towards each other. The lives of others are also at stake as they are unwittingly drawn into the game. While the circus was created for the express purpose of the game, it has become something more. Following the circus is becoming a way of life for many people who have coined themselves rêveurs. When the game is done the circus will have served it's initial purpose, but Celia and Marco realize that it needs to go on. They will not be the ones to do this, so someone must be chosen. Someone who is a dreamer, who can balance the opposing forces of chaos and order that the challenge embraces. It is all a matter of timing.

For the longest time I have been unable, or unwilling to write a review of this book. I just can't think of anything to say that would do this book justice. Saying it was the best book I have read in years  might give you some indication, as would the fact that almost everyone I have recommended it to has loved it, but again, that is subjective. Though none of that covers the why I love this book so much. My words can never say what I want them to say, so I will use Moregenstern's own words.

"It is important... When the battles are fought and won and lost, when the pirates find their treasures and the dragons eat their foes for breakfast with a nice cup of Lapsang souchong, someone needs to tell their bits of overlapping narrative. There's magic in that. It's in the listener, and for each and every ear it will be different, and it will affect them in ways they can never predict. From the mundane to the profound. You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone's soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows what they might do because of it, because of your words...There are many kinds of magic, after all."

This book, for me, was pure magic and has taken up residence in my soul. It transported me to a world of black and white stripped tents, apple orchards that Louisa Mat Alcott might have written about in Little Women, fall nights going to fairs when they where still magical. This book bottled the memories of what wonder is, much as Widget would, and gave it back to me. Like The Prestige, but with a Tim Burton/Edward Gorey slant and star crossed lovers and hopes and dreams. Everything combines together to make magic. Just go read it and maybe by the time you are done I can articulate my feelings, but my writers block is much like the inability to remember a dream upon waking, you only are left with that wonderful glow.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Tuesday Tomorrow

Encounters with Sherlock Holmes edited by George Mann
Published by: Titan
Publication Date: February 19th, 2013
Format: Paperback, 400 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"A brand-new collection of Sherlock Holmes stories from a variety of exciting voices in modern horror and steampunk, including James Lovegrove, Justin Richards, Paul Magrs, Guy Adams and Mark Hodder. Edited by respected anthologist George Mann, and including a story by Mann himself."

Ok, if it wasn't for the fact that I already love Paul, Justin and George, not to mention Sherlock, I think the goofy "Mann" pun would have sold it for me.

Shards and Ashes edited by Melissa Marr and Kelley Armstrong
Published by: HarperCollins
Publication Date: February 19th, 2013
Format: Hardcover, 384 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
" The world is gone, destroyed by human, ecological, or supernatural causes. Survivors dodge chemical warfare and cruel gods; they travel the reaches of space and inhabit underground caverns. Their enemies are disease, corrupt corporations, and one another; their resources are few and their courage is tested.

Powerful original dystopian tales from nine bestselling authors offer bleak insight, prophetic visions, and precious glimmers of light among the shards and ashes of a ruined world."

The who's who of YA writing distopian short stories, sign me up!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Book Review - Jeffrey Eugenides' Middlesex

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
Published by: Picador USA
Publication Date: 2002
Format: Paperback, 529 Pages
Rating: ★★
To Buy
Cal was born Callie. There was no surgery, there was no accident. There was just a fluke of genes and a lack of knowledge. Cal tells us his story. The journey from female to male. The fact that being a hermaphrodite, while he has male genes, being raised female, has influenced him greatly, but not as greatly as he told the eminent Dr. Luce. Yet, to tell his tale, we must travel back in time. How was he formed? What where the confluence of genes that led to him. Desdemona and her brother Lefty, his paternal grandparents. They fled Greece in the onslaught of the Turkish. They also fled the fact that they where siblings, as well as third cousins. It was a very small village they came from, a village where sometimes, babies where born who where neither one thing or another.

Resettling in Detroit, they started a new life with their cousin Lina and her husband of convenience Zizmo. Lina likes the girls rather more than the boys, so is quite shocked when she and Desdemona both become pregnant, damn that arousing play they went to see. These two children will one day be Cal's parents. Spanning generations, the book shows how hard it is to live between two worlds. Male and female, Greek and American, child and adult. Is it genes that make us, environment, or something else entirely? Is it our choice?

I can see why this book won the Pulitzer. It's really well written, thought provoking, and an interesting and daring subject (hello again incest! You thought I was going to say hermaphrodite didn't you?), and literally made for book club dissection, which I will be doing. Yet, while enjoying the read, I never really felt that invested in the book or that enamoured of the characters. Middlesex is really at least six books in one; memoir, historical fiction, romance, coming of age, disillusioned youth, drifter in the vein of Holden Caulfield, and finally a weird John Waters Midnight Cowboy camp mash-up worthy of David Lynch.

The generational structure, which was necessary, because it showed how Callie became Cal, had the downside of me growing to really care about a character only to have Eugenides speed up the narrative and push them aside for the newer character to take the stage. He also had the tendency to not only marginalize the previous characters, but to demonize them in some fashion. Lefty and Desdemona's taboo love was turned sour, Milton and Tessie and their budding romance, turned into upper middle class boredom. While it shows that, indeed, life goes on and changes, it changed my feelings so much over the course of the narrative, that I began to marginalize the characters in my own mind before the author did it for me. We even seemed to be in sync when Dr. Luce came around, because after all that build up, he was there marginally for two weeks and then gone. With trying to cover so much historical ground, I hate to say this because I felt this book was overly long anyway and spent most of it's time stringing us along, but he should have made it an even bigger epic, so that the rush to end a tale and begin another tale was omitted and we could still care for those we had been previously reading about. Shift the focus, don't eliminate the previous characters as much. And don't put Desdemona in the guest house and only remember her after 100 pages to add a nice cyclical feeling at the end.

Other things that bothered me where quite nit-picky. Sometimes the language was overly written, this superfluous verbosity made me want to smack Eugenides from time to time, just as you probably wanted to do to me for using the phrase superfluous verbosity. This tendency in fact reminded me very much of Michael Chabon's The Final Solution, wherein I felt that Chabon wrote the book with a thesaurus full of obscure words just to drive me slightly insane. While Eugenides doesn't reach Cabon's heights of undesirable loquaciousness, he did have me shaking my fist and looking for a dictionary every once in a while.

Eugenides has a deft hand for humor, often leading to me laughing out loud, but occasionally he took the humor too far and it became a parody that didn't work. For example, the midnight car chase, started out funny, with it basically being the most sedate car chase ever, but then, it went over the top, and almost became a scene from one of Matt Damon's Bourne movies, but with an odd out-of-body coda. This, this was too much. As was the peep show in San Francisco. I'm not saying that this didn't work, I'm saying, it was more John Waters or David Lynch than any other part of the book and therefore did not feel like it was a part of this book.

String us along for hundreds of pages, at least Eugenides delivered where it mattered most. Callie. While parts of "her" own story I didn't like, such as the lecherous older men when she was younger and her slightly pervy brother, once she became a teenager the book soared. All teenagers have the feeling that something is wrong with them, that they are different. While, with Callie, this is indeed the case, it was still a struggle anyone can identify with, we didn't all start out as adults. The feelings for the Obscure Object, could be any crush or first love. But what I was really struck by was how well a male writer could capture the beginning of womanhood, to use a cliched phrase. All girls go through the waiting game of when they will start to develop. When will they need a bra, when can they start shaving, when do they need deodorant. When will they start to menstruate. In Callie's case, it is a futile waiting game, yet it's the fact that "she" doesn't know that it's futile like we readers do, that makes it that much more poignant. For me it recaptured that time in my life. I felt all these emotions that I had forgotten about all over again. For me it took me back to the summer of 1991 and how my golden birthday was ruined by the arrival of the bane of womanhood. Yet this book made me grateful. Made me realize how lucky I was. Middlesex cast a golden light on my own development and made me happy that I could re-experience that time in my life. Recapture the uncertainty and, like Callie when she becomes Cal, know the feeling of what it's like to realize who you are and start on the path to becoming who you will be.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Book Review - Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
Published by: Starscape
Publication Date: 1985
Format: Paperback, 324 Pages
Rating: ★
To Buy (different edition then one reviewed)

Ender Wiggin is the shame of his family. He is a Third. On an Earth where the population is still reeling countless years later from the last alien "Bugger" invasion, children are limited to two... unless there is a government mandate or the parents live outside the laws of decency. Ender was government mandated. In order to save humanity, the government has decided that children who are gifted should be trained to be their saviours. Ender's siblings, Peter and Valentine, both showed potential as being the most gifted children ever to be monitored for training. Yet Peter's violence and Valentine's empathy ultimately doomed them to a life on Earth. Still, the potential was so great that Ender Wiggin was "commissioned."

Ender has spent years being monitored to see if he would fulfil the potential of his siblings. Despite appearances to the contrary, the government decides that Ender is indeed their ideal savior. Yet, in order to achieve this end result, the rules will be broken. Battle School has been run in a space station orbiting Earth and training the youths in a very set curriculum of schoolwork and mock battles. Divided into armies and platoons, the students fight each other in a safe environment to hone their skills that will be used against the Buggers. When Ender arrives, all the rules are changed. By isolating Ender and promoting him beyond his age group, they hope to create the greatest military mind the universe has ever seen. He is a tactical genius, thinking outside the box and is able to embrace concepts that other students can't even understand on the most rudimentary level.

Soon Ender is promoted out of Battle School before even reaching his teens and sent out to the far reaches of the galaxy to Command School, where he is trained by the greatest military mind ever, before him that is. Put in a simulator, Ender is virtually learning how to control a fleet and fellow commanders who must answer to him. Yet, deep in his mind he starts to question if the Buggers are the real threat. While back on Earth, his siblings might pose a far greater threat because they have realized something that Ender has only guessed at. They are spurned geniuses, and they have the world at their feet.

A space age Lord of the Flies, a tale of justified violence and uncompromising brutality. This are the criticisms that are often written about this book. Yet... this was not what bothered me. Growing up when I have, the world around me has desensitized me to violence. Not to say that I didn't consider this book violent, I just considered that to be the least of it's flaws. I have never read a book by Orson Scott Card previously, nor will I ever again. While many believe this book to be the pinnacle of science fiction, I personally was left, not only scratching my head, but with the taste of bile in my mouth.

If not for the fact that this was for my book club I would not have finished it. If Card isn't spewing hatred, he is plodding along with his mind numbingly boring plot. This book is very much a battle movie, in that, you can see Michael Bay loving getting to set children into combat with lots of gore and death. This did not make for a good book. Moving past the fact that it is badly written, you really have to give me this, it's clunky, awkward and the little "omniscient narrations" before each chapter where laughable, the language and hatred that spilled out of the book just shocked me. The racism and bigotry floored me. I don't believe in censorship or taking away free speech. But the fact that there are children out there reading this book and thinking this language is acceptable, chills me to the marrow of my bones. From homophobic slurs against a little boy Shen, who comes to be called worm because of his effeminate walk, to racial anti-Semitic language used against Ender's first army leader because he is Jewish, and not only that, having Rose himself "self deprecatingly" joke about it himself shows even more that it's acceptable to children who don't know better! The book just compounds hatred and bile into this big mess that I wanted to fling out the window.

For many years I have tried to come to grips with the fact you sometimes have to separate the artist from their art. A beautiful painting might have been painted by a horrible bigot. A classic of literature might have been written by a pervert, ie, the Lewis Carroll/J.M. Barrie conundrum. Yet this is impossible when the views and opinions of the author are so a part of the text that they are inescapable. After a few chapters I realized that Orson Scott Card must be one of the biggest homophobes the world has seen. Therefore I did some goodreads trawling. Going past all my friends who mysterious loved this book (they are going to have a lot to answer for at book club!) I went to those reviews who gave the book a star. Or as I call these reviewers, "my people." There a found a link to an online article where he railed against homosexuality saying that homosexuals are allowed to marry, so long as they marry the opposite sex, not where their heart lies. Not that Card believes that homosexuals have hearts... because "the dark secret of homosexual society -- the one that dares not speak its name -- is how many homosexuals first entered into that world through a disturbing seduction or rape or molestation or abuse, and how many of them yearn to get out of the homosexual community and live normally." WHAT!?!

Card, you can believe what you want to believe, just like anyone who is reading my blog can, just, don't do it around me. I'm not trying to preach here or anything. I was raised to believe in love. But to spew this bile and not be called out on it. To be lauded with awards for this hate spewing work? You have an amazing mind, you where able to envision how technology would evolve. In the eighties, you saw the rise of the Internet, the rise of bloggers like me and the power we would have. You saw children working on desks that are quite literally our tablets, such as the iPad. You pre-saged all this amazing technology, yet your belief system lives in the dark ages. I'm calling you out on it. Hopefully one day people will realize that your book is nothing more than a platform for your hate.

*If you would care to read the full article referenced above, it can be found here. I will warn you though that it has many inflammatory opinions, none of which I hold with.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Tuesday Tomorrow

A Week in Winter by Maeve Binchy
Published by: Knopf
Publication Date: February 12th, 2013
Format: Hardcover, 336 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Stoneybridge is a small town on the west coast of Ireland where all the families know one another. When Chicky Starr decides to take an old, decaying mansion set high on the cliffs overlooking the windswept Atlantic Ocean and turn it into a restful place for a holiday by the sea, everyone thinks she is crazy. Helped by Rigger (a bad boy turned good who is handy around the house) and Orla, her niece (a whiz at business), Chicky is finally ready to welcome the first guests to Stone House’s big warm kitchen, log fires, and understated elegant bedrooms. John, the American movie star, thinks he has arrived incognito; Winnie and Lillian are forced into taking a holiday together; Nicola and Henry, husband and wife, have been shaken by seeing too much death practicing medicine; Anders hates his father’s business, but has a real talent for music; Miss Nell Howe, a retired schoolteacher, criticizes everything and leaves a day early, much to everyone’s relief; the Walls are disappointed to have won this second-prize holiday in a contest where first prize was Paris; and Freda, the librarian, is afraid of her own psychic visions.

Sharing a week with this unlikely cast of characters is pure joy, full of Maeve’s trademark warmth and humor. Once again, she embraces us with her grand storytelling.

Last Maeve Binchy you're going to get, so brace yourselves!

A Medal for Murder by Frances Brody
Published by: Minotaur
Publication Date: February 12th, 2013
Format: Hardcover, 432 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"A pawn-shop robbery

It's no rest for the wicked as Kate Shackleton picks up her second professional sleuthing case. But exposing the culprit of a pawn-shop robbery turns sinister when her investigation takes her to Harrogate - and murder is only one step behind ...

A fatal stabbing.

A night at the theatre should have been just what the doctor ordered, until Kate stumbles across a body in the doorway. The knife sticking out of its chest definitely suggests a killer in the theatre's midst.

A ransom demand.

Kate likes nothing better than a mystery - and nothing better than solving them. So when a ransom note demands £1,000 for the safe return of the play's leading lady, the refined streets of Harrogate play host to Kate's skills in piecing together clues - and luring criminals out of their lairs…"

Just the kind of period whodunit I love!

Hattie Ever After by Kirby Larson
Published by: Delacorte
Publication Date: February 12th, 2013
Format: Hardcover, 240 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"After leaving Uncle Chester's homestead claim, orphan Hattie Brooks throws a lasso around a new dream, even bigger than the Montana sky. She wants to be a reporter, knowing full well that a few pieces published in the Arlington News will not suffice. Real reporters must go to Grand Places, and do Grand Things, like Hattie's hero Nellie Bly. Another girl might be stymied by this, but Hattie has faced down a hungry wolf and stood up to a mob of angry men. Nothing can squash her desire to write for a big city newspaper. A letter and love token from Uncle Chester's old flame in San Francisco fuels that desire and Hattie jumps at the opportunity to get there by working as a seamstress for a traveling acting troupe. This could be her chance to solve the mystery of her "scoundrel" uncle and, in the process, help her learn more about herself. But Hattie must first tell Charlie that she will not join him in Seattle. Even though her heart approves of Charlie's plan for their marriage, her mind fears that saying yes to him would be saying no to herself. Hattie holds her own in the big city, literally pitching her way to a byline, and a career that could be even bigger than Nellie Bly's. But can making headlines compensate for the pain of betrayal and lost love? Hattie must dig deep to find her own true place in the world. Kirby Larson once again creates a lovingly written novel about the remarkable and resilient young orphan, Hattie Inez Brooks."

Could it be the mention of San Francisco that caught my eye?

Sever by Lauren DeStefano
Published by: Simon and Schuster
Publication Date: February 12th, 2013
Format: Hardcover, 384 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Time is running out for Rhine in this conclusion to the New York Times bestselling Chemical Garden Trilogy.

With the clock ticking until the virus takes its toll, Rhine is desperate for answers. After enduring Vaughn’s worst, Rhine finds an unlikely ally in his brother, an eccentric inventor named Reed. She takes refuge in his dilapidated house, though the people she left behind refuse to stay in the past. While Gabriel haunts Rhine’s memories, Cecily is determined to be at Rhine’s side, even if Linden’s feelings are still caught between them.

Meanwhile, Rowan’s growing involvement in an underground resistance compels Rhine to reach him before he does something that cannot be undone. But what she discovers along the way has alarming implications for her future—and about the past her parents never had the chance to explain.

In this breathtaking conclusion to Lauren DeStefano’s Chemical Garden trilogy, everything Rhine knows to be true will be irrevocably shattered."

Brace yourself again (I know you're probably still braced from before, but thought it was worth mentioning again)... it's the end of The Chemical Garden series. Will it end right for you?

Friday, February 8, 2013

Book Review - M.J. Rose's The Reincarnationist

The Reincarnationist by M.J. Rose
Published by: Mira
Publication Date: January 1st, 2007
Format: Paperback, 449 Pages
Rating: ★★
To Buy
Josh Ryder has been having weird spells ever since he survived a terrorist attack in Rome. He keeps slipping into the past, into what could only, logically, be his past lives. There is too much detail for any doubt to exist. He has sought out help from The Phoenix Foundation, who specialize in helping children understand their dreams which aren't really dreams but past life regressions. Malachai and his aunt take Josh on because he has such clear visions, one of them involving their building. A discovery in Rome sends Josh back there with Malachai. A Professor Rudolfo and his assistant Gabriella have uncovered an unknown tomb. Malachai and Josh hope that not only will this discovery help Josh, but perhaps will shed light on the mysterious memory stones, stones said to allow you to see all your past lives.

Josh is so haunted by his past that in a daze he wanders for miles till he stumbles on Professor Rudolfo's site hours before their meeting. There he finds Sabina... or the well preserved corpse of Sabina, his true love back when he was Julius, all those hundreds of years ago. Tragedy strikes the tomb again and Rudolfo is killed. Josh is arrested as the primary suspect but soon is released. While his time in Italy is at an end, the memory of Sabina still stirs him. He will find the answer one way or another. Back in New York he connects with Rudolfo's assistant Gabriella. Josh feels drawn to her, was she Sabina in a past life? Soon their knowledge of the memory stones lead to the kidnapping of Gabriella's daughter Quinn. If Josh and Gabriella can't solve the mystery that has baffled people for centuries, Quinn might die.

Part Indiana Jones, but more Da Vinci Code without any kind of narrative drive, this book was a struggle to get through. If I hadn't thrown out my back and been immobile, I don't think I would have finished it. Besides having the hardest title of a book to ever say, I dare you, try to say it out loud, this book left too many lose ends and me saying "well, that happened." While I don't look favorably on books like The Da Vinci Code, at least Dan Brown kept the urgency, kept the plot moving. For something so dire, for a race against the clock, the pace of the book was quite languid. Not to mention, the sub plot with Rachel and her Uncle Alex being so secondary until the end was pointless, hence eliminating them from the synopsis. Use them throughout OR don't introduce them till you need them. They felt like they where thrown on stage three acts before they where needed. I also felt that Josh's jumps into the past a little too cliche. "He smelt Sandalwood and Jasmine" now he gets a giant erection and can only dream of the dead girl. I kid you not, the biggest sex scene in this book, and there are a few, are between Josh, aka Julius, and the memory of Sabina, while in the shower.

If the story had remained in Italy, perhaps there would have been a better chance to connect with the narrative. But once they left Italy, I really couldn't care less. Then the fact she brings out the kidnapping trope... ug, just no. I will give her credit that in the last page she did give a little bit of a game changer, which was nice, but I knew who the bad guy was from the beginning, and all your running around and adding plots on plots and more and more stupid characters will not take away from the obviousness of everything. Again, a book not finished by the majority of my book club... but sub par writing with one too many cliches will do that, and, if the writer can't be bothered to finish the story and tie up the loose ends, the memory stones, etc, then why should a reader be bothered with finishing it? Also, nothing pisses me off more than an obvious lack of understanding something. M.J. Rose obviously doesn't understand that a yard is equal to three feet. He was so close, only 3 yards away... dood, that's not that close if you're in a tunnel and trying to get out. Also, if you are interested in something good about reincarnation, rent Dead Again and be done with it, don't read this book.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Book Review - Cheryl Strayed's Wild

Wild by Cheryl Strayed
Published by: Knopf
Publication Date: March 20th, 2012
Format: Hardcover, 315 Pages
Rating: ★★★
To Buy
Cheryl Strayed had a tough yet somewhat idyllic upbringing in Minnesota. Her two siblings and her and their mom and her stepfather and a little plot of land to call their own in the far north. In Cheryl's final semester of school her mother got Cancer and died. Cheryl's life spun wildly out of control. She not only lost her mother, but her connection to her siblings, her step-father and finally her husband divorced her. A combination of grief, promiscuity and drugs will do that. Cheryl latched onto this idea of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail through California to Oregon as some sort of penance. Once she did this her life would be ready to get on track. She could maybe finish college, kick heroin, leave behind the countless men and the abortion she had and start anew. The PCT was going to be her salvation. A hard trek over dangerous terrain, where bears, foxes, wolves and snow would all be encountered. She thought she was ready for it, but the trail challenged her in ways she didn't expect.

Firstly she packed way too much, her backpack being affectionately called monster. Her shoes where to small and she wasn't keeping the pace she had expected too. Soon she had to result to detours to avoid all the areas of the Trail that where snowed in. She went through many hardships of not having enough money on her detours, having not expected to encounter them. But on the trail and at the rest stops, she became friends with other hikers in the close knit community of the PCT. All the while, as her feet marked mile after mile, she thought about all that had happened to get her here. The husband she let go, her mother's horse that she had to put down, how she was headed nowhere but the next mile and the next mile. Yet all would be worth it once she reached the Bridge of the Gods and her journey was over, minus most of her toenails.

I am not a non-fiction reader. If I read non-fiction it has most likely been for school or because it was some funny celebrity memoir. This wasn't either. This was a book club pick, thankfully picked before Oprah, I will not go into this now, but me and Oprah, we have issues. Wild was interesting in that I hate Cheryl, I really truly hate her, yet I was compelled to keep reading. She is not a nice person, at least that's what I feel like having read the book, and, I'm sorry, but if you're not likable in your autobiography, then you're probably not likable. She has too many self esteem issues. Not only is she promiscuous, be she truly believes that every man she encounters wants her. So much of her journey seems to be getting herself away from the world of temptation, that when she does hook up at what was originally going to be her final destination, the "romance" of the moment is lost in the, "you dumb bitch, not again" that was coming from my mouth. Also, as to her heroin addiction... um, heroin isn't that easy to kick. I'm injecting today, tomorrow I'll be on the trail and not feel any signs of withdrawal. Ok Cheryl, sure.

Also, this is a book about her hike around these beautiful panoramas and vistas, a journey where she clearly states she has a camera... why are there no pictures? Not a one! Is it because all the men reading it would want her? Now just to start piling on the things that pissed me off, I should mention that there where people in my book club who hated her so much they didn't bother to finish the book. Let's start with Cheryl's last name. When I read that her last name was "Strayed" I was like, that has got to be some lame pretentious made up name... yes and no. She made it up, but it's legally hers. What kind of writer is so pretentious as to pick strayed as their name? Gah, just, gah. Then, why this book now? I mean, this happened when I was in high school. The whole book felt dated. The references to OJ Simpson and Jerry Garcia... did you really need money so bad that you finally wrote this book? Also, her upbringing I think made it easier to adjust to trail life, she didn't have running water for years in Minnesota, so she doesn't really cover her upbringing as being trail compatible. The ending felt rushed. I mean, total in depth detail all the way to the Oregon border and then Oregon was over, woosh.

Yet none of this, not one single thing made me hate the book as to what she did with some of her mothers ashes, even the toenails didn't do it. She found a nice big bone chip and ate it! That's right, she ate her mother. This wasn't a metaphor, this was gross reality. All I kept thinking was that her thinking of "now my mother will always be with me" was so flawed, because, now, you are going to shit out your mother. Some of your mother will be down a pipe somewhere after you fucked someone or shot up, and your mother will be there. I was so revolted that if I hadn't decided I hated her already, this would have pushed me over the edge, it brought the book down a full star as it stands. Just icky! This whole book could have been better served as a series of short stories where her mother eating tendencies where left out.

A final note to Knopf. An istock picture ISN'T A COVER! All you did was cut out the other boot, with a bad clipping path I might add if you look closely at the cover. Sure, these look like her description of her boots, but couldn't you have taken your own picture? Or how about a picture of Cheryl on the PCT as the cover? How about any kind of originality of any kind please!?!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Book Review - Gail Carriger's Etiquette and Espionage

Etiquette and Espionage, Finishing School Book the First by Gail Carriger
Published by: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: February 5th, 2013
Format: Hardcover, 320 Pages
Rating: ★★
To Buy

Sophronia isn't exactly like other girls her age. Rather then sitting prettily in a chair and waiting to be wooed, she'd rather be climbing up a tree. Her mother therefore has decided she needs to go to finishing school... yet the finishing school that takes her isn't what it seems. While they will make a lady out of her, they aren't interested in quelling her unusual habits, but in cultivating them for a more open ended meaning of finishing. A school devoted to the arts of espionage will obviously have a few evil villains and traitors in the mix. Sophronia and her posse of friends soon stumble on a plot to leak information for an astonishing new invention to the evil Picklemen, who have already attacked the school once. It is up to them to stop this from happening, this is what they are being schooled in after all...

I wanted to like this book, I really really did. Thankfully, now that more reviews are coming out it seems to be just me, which I hoped was the case, because I love Gail's writing but I just didn't love this. While reading this book I did something I rarely ever do, and that's set the book aside for awhile. Usually when a book isn't working for me I try to push on through till I reach a point where either I grudgingly find something to like and my opinion is changed or I finish it and can mark it off my list and get it out of my life and onto the next book. But I love Gail so much I thought that everything I was hating about the book was just in my head. So I set it aside and read something else, which I really enjoyed. Feeling hopeful that my joy in books was undiminished, I picked up Etiquette and Espionage again and found that I still could barely stand reading it. The book was indeed a book I had to push through till the end and then I had a hard talking to with myself as to the rating I'd give it... let's put it this way, it was saved from the one star rating just because of Bumbersnoot. Who doesn't love a Steampunk version of K-9 without all the annoying "mistress" stuff?

Dumbing down. That is the flaw that got in my craw. There is nothing I hate more then feeling like an author is talking down to me, which is a fatal flaw of L. Frank Baum, or dumbing down their writing so that little old me can understand it. Oh gosh, I just can't handle the overly big words, it makes my brain hurt. I have noticed that several authors who have written for a predominately adult audience aren't quite able to make this shift into YA. For some reason they treat their audience differently and change their writing stylistically. The thing is, the YA market is a very discerning audience. Gail's previous books have much cross genre appeal and she could have easily just taken out the sexy bits of her previous books and that would have been enough. But instead we get a book that is predominately action which lacked a snap to the language, and it felt flat. The witty repartee seemed pushed aside for plot expedience, making the whole book lackluster. Etiquette and Espionage felt like a wonderful book that had been mercilessly bowdlerized to make it into a blockbuster that was dumbed down for the masses. Gone is the chatter over tea and scones, in is the heroine climbing the side of a dirigible... why? Because obviously that's the easiest way to get to the bowels of the ship? Excuse me what? Action action action to me is dull, please bring back the chats over tea.

Yet it wasn't just the writing that was dull, but the plot and characters. For a heroine, Sophronia was very one dimensional. She was good at physical activities such as climbing... yeah, that's it for Sophronia. Oh, except that she is so obtuse! I mean, it's understandable that at first she didn't get the joke and the true meaning behind a "finishing school" but that she continuously didn't get it just drove me insane. I just wanted anyone at all to pull her aside and go, "Ok, so, Sophronia, we know that in your world getting finished means getting all your accomplishments polished so that you can be married off, but look at the classes we teach here, finishing can also mean killing someone, ok, now stop being so dumb." Add additional characters even dumber than her as sidekicks and a very basic espionage plot, and the book just didn't appeal to me at all. Sorry.

Though there is one aspect of the book that bothered me beyond all the dumbing down and that is Soap. Soap himself doesn't bother me as such, in that he's just a stock minority character to round out Sophronia's team, it's his name. In another instance of Sophronia's stupidity, upon first meeting Soap she doesn't realize that he is black because he is covered in soot from coal. His name comes from the fact that no matter how much he washes, he'll still look like he's covered in soot. Excuse me? Um... this name offends me on so many levels. I don't care if it's irony or self parody on Soap's part, to me it's racist. While the name is countered by his portrayal and the fact that he is a love interest, the name is just so so wrong. Even before this time in England, there where quite wealthy and well respected blacks in the community, thank you Regency House Party. Slavery was first abolished in 1807 with any people slow to the party being taken out with the Slavery Abolition Act 1833, while this book is set in 1851. So, while I know racism even lingers to this day, there was so much upheaval and change and so much good being done before the setting of this book that by naming the character Soap, it just feels like two steps backwards.

So, wow, this is turned into a rather wordy review now didn't it? I guess I just really needed to justify those two stars which have been worrying rather a fair few of my friends who are also huge fans of Gail Carriger. In summation, I don't think this book will get Gail many new readers. There is just too much world building that is dependent on having read the previous books, written for a much older audience who will not appreciate the dumbing down of the writing. The only little joy I got from this book, aside from Bumbersnoot, was seeing characters from The Parasol Protectorate at a younger age... though not all cameos are successful. Yet there are ways this series could work. I liked the school and the fixed environment, just flesh it out more, set aside more chapters to fully explore this school. Show us classes. Make it Harry Potter on a damn dirigible not debutantes climbing dirigibles! And please, before anything else, give Soap a real name.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Tuesday Tomorrow

Etiquette and Espionage (Finishing School Book 1) by Gail Carriger
Published by: Little Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: February 5th, 2013
Format: Hardcover, 320 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"It's one thing to learn to curtsy properly. It's quite another to learn to curtsy and throw a knife at the same time. Welcome to Finishing School.

Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is a great trial to her poor mother. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper manners--and the family can only hope that company never sees her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminnick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. So she enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.

But Sophronia soon realizes the school is not quite what her mother might have hoped. At Mademoiselle Geraldine's, young ladies learn to finish...everything. Certainly, they learn the fine arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but the also learn to deal out death, diversion, and espionage--in the politest possible ways, of course. Sophronia and her friends are in for a rousing first year's education.

Set in the same world as the Parasol Protectorate, this YA series debut is filled with all the saucy adventure and droll humor Gail's legions of fans have come to adore."

Let's put it this way, love the world Gail has built, didn't love this.

The Queen is Dead by Kate Locke
Published by: Orbit
Publication Date: February 5th, 2013
Format: Hardcover, 352 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"When her brother Val gets in over his head in an investigation of Half-Blood disappearances and goes missing himself, it's up to Xandra, newly crowned Goblin Queen, to get him back and bring the atrocities to light. Xandra must frequent the seediest parts of London, while also coping with what she is, the political factions vying for her favor, and the all too-close scrutiny of Queen Victoria, who wants her head. Add this to a being a suspect in a murder investigation, a werewolf boyfriend with demands of his own, and a mother hell bent on destroying the monarchy, and Xandra barely knows which way is up. One thing she does know is that she's already lost one sibling, she's not about to lose another.

Xandra Varden is the newly crowned Goblin Queen of England. But her complicated life is by no means over.

There are the political factions vying for her favor, and the all too-close scrutiny of Queen Victoria, who for some reason wants her head. Not to mention her werewolf boyfriend with demands of his own, and a mother hell bent on destroying the monarchy. Now she's the suspect in a murder investigation --- and Xandra barely knows which way is up.

What she does know is that nothing lasts forever---and immortality isn't all its cracked up to be."

Steampunk, steampunk, steampunk!

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer
Published by: Feiwel and Friends
Publication Date: February 5th, 2013
Format: Hardcover, 464 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, returns in the second thrilling installment of the bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She's trying to break out of prison--even though if she succeeds, she'll be the Commonwealth's most wanted fugitive.

Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit's grandmother is missing. It turns out there are many things Scarlet doesn't know about her grandmother or the grave danger she has lived in her whole life. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother's whereabouts, she is loath to trust this stranger, but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her. As Scarlet and Wolf unravel one mystery, they encounter another when they meet Cinder. Now, all of them must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen Levana, who will do anything for the handsome Prince Kai to become her husband, her king, her prisoner."

Feels like I've been dying for the last year waiting for this book to come out. I literally can not wait another day for it!

Perfect Scoundrels by Ally Carter
Published by: Hyperion
Publication Date: February 5th, 2013
Format: Hardcover, 336 Pages
To Buy

The official patter: "Katarina Bishop and W.W. Hale the fifth were born to lead completely different lives: Kat comes from a long, proud line of loveable criminal masterminds, while Hale is the scion of one of the most seemingly perfect dynasties in the world. If their families have one thing in common, it’s that they both know how to stay under the radar while getting—or stealing—whatever they want.

No matter the risk, the Bishops can always be counted on, but in Hale’s family, all bets are off when money is on the line. When Hale unexpectedly inherits his grandmother’s billion dollar corporation, he quickly learns that there’s no place for Kat and their old heists in his new role. But Kat won’t let him go that easily, especially after she gets tipped off that his grandmother’s will might have been altered in an elaborate con to steal the company’s fortune. So instead of being the heir—this time,Hale might be the mark.

Forced to keep a level head as she and her crew fight for one of their own, Kat comes up with an ambitious and far-reaching plan that only the Bishop family would dare attempt. To pull it off, Kat is prepared to do the impossible, but first, she has to decide if she’s willing to save her boyfriend’s company if it means losing the boy."

More heists... man do I want to be a thief with jewels and art, high end antiquity stuff...

Cry Wolf (Alpha and Omega Book 1) by Patricia Briggs
Published by: Ace
Publication Date: February 5th, 2013
Format: Hardcover, 368 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Now in hardcover: the first Alpha and Omega novel from the #1 New York Times bestselling author.

Anna never knew werewolves existed, until the night she survived a violent attack…and became one herself. After three years at the bottom of the pack, she’s learned to keep her head down and never, ever trust dominant males. Then Charles Cornick, the enforcer—and son—of the leader of the North American werewolves, came into her life.

Charles insists that not only is Anna his mate, but she is also a rare and valued Omega wolf. And it is Anna’s inner strength and calming presence that will prove invaluable as she and Charles go on the hunt in search of a rogue werewolf—a creature bound in magic so dark that it could threaten all the pack…

Includes a new introduction from the author as well as the novella, "Alpha and Omega," originally published in On The Prowl, that inspired the series and tells how Anna and Charles's story began."

Well, I've been hoping that since this series is so popular they'd go back a re-release the first two in hardcover, and viola! What's even better is that they've logically put the novella in with the book, dream come true!

Downton Abbet: The Complete Scripts, Season 1 by Julian Fellowes
Published by: William Morrow
Publication Date: February 5th, 2013
Format: Paperback, 416 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"The full scripts of award-winning Downton Abbey, season one including previously unseen material.

Downton Abbey has become an international phenomenon and the most successful British drama of our time. Created by Oscar-winning writer Julian Fellowes, the first season delighted viewers and critics alike with stellar performances, ravishing costumes, and a gripping plot. Set in a grand country house during the late Edwardian era, season one of Downton Abbey follows the lives of the Crawley family upstairs and their servants downstairs as they approach the announcement of the First World War. Fellowes succeeds in not only entertaining his audience with a combination of sustained storylines and sharp one-liners but also in delivering a social commentary of British life. The scripts from season one give readers the opportunity to read the work in more detail and to study the characters, pace, and themes in depth. With extended commentary from Fellowes, highlighting key historical or dramatic details, this book gives invaluable insight, particularly for would-be screenwriters, into how Fellowes researched and crafted the world of Downton Abbey.

Featuring full-color photographs."

Um... why would anyone want this? The show is so much about mood and looks and glances across a room and the music, it would be silly to just sit around reading the scripts instead of watching the show. Oh, but wait! Full-color photos? You've sold me... not.

Friday, February 1, 2013

For the Love of Book Clubs!

For years I dreamt of a book club. You may think that I exaggerate, you may think this is hyperbole. It is not. My search for one yielded nothing. At school when asked to do projects I would somehow make then about books or book clubs. When people told me they where in book clubs I would ask them when and where they meet, perhaps with a little too much fervor, seeing as they never told me, like Gomez Addams calling into Sally Jesse Raphael, pleading to know where the cults meet. Yes, obscure Addams Family reference there, but I'm sorry, that movie is awesome.

Last year my friend Daniella and I said "IT IS TIME!" There may have been a god like bolt of lightning, or there may have just been a Facebook group formed... but the gist is this: I HAVE A BOOK CLUB! I love that I have a book club! February is about love. It's the time of year when couples are sickeningly sweet and make everyone else feel sad and lonely at this cold and bleak time. But really, there are so many things to love, and I love books and my book club. Therefore I thought that this February, I would ignore the coupledom of Valentine's and concentrate on the love aspect. So this month is an ode to my book club, The Last Word Book Club, (yes we have a name,  a tagline, and soon a blog, I really got to get on that, we meet this weekend) with a selection of the books we read over the past year. Books we loved or loathed or changed our views on human ashes forever, yes I'm looking at you Cheryl Strayed. Stay and enjoy the height of ultracrepidarianism (points if you know what that word means!)

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