Follow Friday

September 28, 2012 § 41 Comments

 
 Welcome to The Happy Booker for another fabulous Follow Friday hosted by Parajunkee and Alisoncanread. While you’re here, be sure to say hi so I can drop by your blog too. This week’s question is:

What is the BIGGEST word you’ve seen used in a book lately – that made you stop and look it up? Might as well leave the definition & book too.

The word that comes to mind is “Peregrinations” from David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas. It was from near the very beginning of the book and this was the context:

“Five years have passed since this harridan besmirched my name, yes, with imputations that resulted in my being blackballed from Society.” Dr. Goose looked out to sea. “My peregrinations began in that dark hour.”

per·e·gri·na·tion

  [per-i-gruhney-shuhn]  

noun

1.

travel from one place to another, especially on foot.
2.

a course of travel; journey.

I probably would have looked up more if I would have been reading it in print instead of listening to the audio. This was a beautifully written book but I know I would have found it challenging to read it in print. \Have you read this or have you seen the previews for the upcoming movie? It looks amazing!

Thanks for stopping by. Be sure to comment so I can follow back. 

Review: The First Days

September 22, 2012 § 2 Comments

The First Days
The First Days by Rhiannon Frater

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ever since reading [b:Feed|7094569|Feed (Newsflesh, #1)|Mira Grant|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1335958027s/7094569.jpg|7351419] by Mira Grant I have been strangely drawn to zombie fiction. (Thank you Wendy, Maja, and Michelle) This is especially strange considering that I’m usually pretty squeamish and blood and guts fiction has never been my thing. While I’m still not a fan of the gore, for some reason, I seem to enjoy stories about how people survive in a world gone completely insane. The First Days certainly fits in that category with a sizable helping of the gory bits included.

The First Days begins by traumatizing the reader into a state of frozen terror by describing how a woman is watching her 3 year old’s bloody fingers scrabbling under the door in an attempt to get to her and goes on to explain how the woman had earlier walked in on her husband consuming the child in his crib and she wonders how there was enough left of him to make it downstairs since her husband has always been known to have a big appetite. With such an insane beginning, I was repulsed by the story and also intrigued with where this author could possibly go from there.

While I don’t believe The First Days had the emotional impact of Feed, it definitely held my interest from start to finish. The rest of the book didn’t exactly fulfill the promise of that first chapter, but there was no shortage of zombie action either. The fast moving plot and well written female characters made up for the fact that the male characters, other than Jenni’s stepson Jason, were pretty meh. I also felt like there were a lot of unnecessary explanations about Katie’s sexuality. Jenni and Katie’s weird bond was fascinating but the stand-out character for me was Narit, who fascinated me for some reason.

The First Days is a blood soaked crazy look at how chaotic a zombie apocalypse can be. I absolutely enjoyed this from beginning to end and am looking forward to reading the second in the series.

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Review- The Forest of Hands and Teeth

September 18, 2012 § 11 Comments

The Forest of Hands and Teeth

                                                            by Carrie Ryan

                                                            Narrated by Vane Millon
The Forest of Hands and Teeth (The Forest of Hands and Teeth, #1)

The Forest of Hands and Teeth is reminiscent of the movie The Village, a group of people are living in a small isolated village surrounded by a high fence which separates them from the undead, or as the book calls them, the unconsecrated. The main character, Mary, is out doing her daily chores as the zombies claw at the fence trying desperately to get inside, when suddenly the sirens blare signalling an emergency, possibly a breach. This emergency begins a series of events which dramatically alter Mary and the rest of the villager’s day to day existence. While the villagers look to the Sister’s to answer their questions and explain god’s will, the Sister’s may be hiding some secrets that could endanger their very existence. Meanwhile, Mary’s main concern is that the brother that she is crushing on has chosen her best friend to marry and she might be stuck with the other brother instead.

I listened to the audio of this and I would not recommend it to anyone considering reading this. You should read it in either print or ebook format. The narrator was very lifeless and monotone and frequently used odd pronunciation. She also, for some unknown reason, used a spanish-like accent for some of the characters which just didn’t fit in a story where the characters had all lived in the same isolated village for generations. I felt like either ALL of the characters should have an accent, or NONE of the characters should have an accent.

I have such a mixed opinion about The Forest of Hands and Teeth. I really enjoyed the story but found Mary, the main character, to be absolutely insufferable. I would say that she is one of the most well written godawful characters I’ve ever read. I don’t know that I’ve ever read a more frustratingly selfish main character. I can’t even call her a “heroine” because all she really manages to do is put people in a lot of really bad situations. Apparently, throughout Mary’s life her mother had told her stories about life before the zombies and many stories in particular about the ocean. So now Mary’s only obsession, other than which brother she loves that day, is making her way to the ocean regardless of who she puts in danger to do it, even though she’s not completely sure if it even exists.

I actually found most of the players to be rather 2 dimensional and spiritless and I spent most of my time hoping one of them would be eaten by a zombie. Mary’s brother was the only one who showed a bit of personality sometimes, unfortunately it wasn’t exactly a winning personality. He was a bit of an asshat. The two brothers were equally insufferable as they constantly made long winded angst filled declarations of their devotion to Mary who couldn’t make up her mind which one she loved. I was hoping zombies would eat them too.

 ‎“He’s so tender, so eager to make me happy in ways that no one else has. Tears start to crowd in my eyes and my body begins to respond to this man as if it were his brother whispering into my ear. As if my body can’t tell the difference between the two, between their whispers and the feel of their breath on my flesh.”

The fact that she basically admitted that she was just a run of the mill ho almost made her character a little more interesting than she had been up to this point. I was still hoping a zombie would eat her though….

On the other hand, the writing and world building was wonderful and the flow of the plot was evenly paced and enjoyable. I honestly don’t understand how I liked a book so much when I didn’t like any of the people in it. Some of the instances when the villagers were going about their day to day existence and the author would describe the scene with zombies just feet away literally breaking their fingers off in the fence trying to get in and a constant cacophony of undead moans was the  background noise to the point that only its absence was notable. This world was so creepy and written in such a matter of fact way that I could really feel the hopelessness of this kind of existence. This book definitely left me with some haunting images of what unthinkable things could happen in such a world.

I don’t know if I’m going to continue to the next book. As much as I loved the writing and story, the ending left me hating the main character even more than I had through the story and I really don’t care what happens to her unless it includes being eaten by a zombie.

Review: The Kingmaker’s Daughter

September 2, 2012 § 2 Comments


The Kingmaker’s Daughter by Philippa Gregory

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Kingmaker’s Daughter is probably my favorite of the Cousin’s War series to date. It is written from the perspective of Anne Neville and gives yet another interesting point of view from this volatile period of history. One of the things I enjoy so much about Philippa Gregory’s novels is that she somehow manages to turn what could have been tedious political maneuvering into exciting intrigue that keeps me riveted from the first moment. I am not a historian so I have no idea how historically accurate this series is, but I can say that they certainly paint a vivid picture of what living in that time period might have been like. From the court customs, to the fashions, the scandals, the betrayals, and executions, each aspect was brought to life in such a way that I almost felt myself a part of the story.

Each character was shown from Anne’s point of view so was colored by her own biases and was a bit different from how these same characters were presented in the previous books. The story was focused so much on Anne, and to a lesser extent Isabelle, that many of the other characters, at times, felt a bit flat. Anne’s relationship with her sister Isabelle was reminiscent of the rivalry between Mary and Anne Boleyn in Gregory’s popular novel, The Other Boleyn Girl. While there was always that undercurrent of love, each sister didn’t hesitate to betray the other in order to further their own cause or that of their husband. I didn’t find either sister to be particularly likable, and sometimes thought that their personalities were a bit contradictory. For example, Anne seems to have grown from a bright, practical, inquisitive child into a fearful woman ruled by her superstitions and unwilling to even consider any point of view than that which painted her family in a positive light. I guess that the struggles she was faced with could account for such a drastic change in character but it was still a bit odd.

One of the things about this series, including The Kingmaker’s Daughter that I was not a fan of was the witchery and spells and magic that were included. However, after discussing this with a friend who is also reading the series, I can see how it may have been presented this way because of how the players so wholeheartedly believed that witchcraft was responsible for many things such as storms, sicknesses, and death. Curses were taken very seriously in 1400’s England and so reading from Anne’s perspective, I can see why an unexpected storm would be believed to have been whistled up by the witch who hated her. I guess this was a realistic danger in this time period, that any misfortune could be laid at the feet of someone believed to be a witch. This would have been a very effective way to discredit a powerful woman, as it seems to have done in the case of Elizabeth Woodville.

While The Kingmaker’s Daughter can be read on it’s own as a stand-alone novel, I would definitely recommend reading the entire series in order simply because it is a beautifully written thrilling story. Despite the fact that I found many of the characters to be a bit flat, the fast paced plot was such that I found the book hard to put down. I know many people, after reading Philippa Gregory’s historical fiction have been inspired to find out more about this violent era and these fascinating people. I would absolutely recommend this and any and every other book written by this author to any fans of this genre.

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Review: Speechless

August 28, 2012 § 2 Comments

Speechless
Speechless by Hannah Harrington

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Chelsea Knot is the best friend of the most popular girl at school and is known for her ability to ferret out, and expose, the good gossip. When she spills a secret that has violent repercussions, Chelsea makes a decision to do the right thing even if it means losing that all-important popularity. Suddenly, she’s on the outside and getting back all that she’s dished out in the past and then some. An article she reads in the National Geographic inspires her to take a vow of silence since talking without thinking has gotten her into this mess.

The beginning of Speechless was very slow and angst filled. The characters were all largely unlikable, a bunch of selfish, shallow teens with entitlement issues. I couldn’t stand Chelsea and didn’t feel particularly sorry for the position she found herself in. I even thought about marking this DNF and moving on to something else. I’m really glad that I didn’t though, because as the story progressed, it slowly became more than it first appeared.

The vow of silence she took seemed to be for selfish attention seeking reasons initially, but the unforeseen result of not speaking allows her to really examine the person that she is as well as the people and things she had surrounded herself with. Her silence also caused her to listen more fully to what people where saying and to consider their words instead of simply replying. Through her vow, she learns about friendship, accountability, loyalty, and the power of words. Her character grows very slowly throughout the story as she acknowledges some hard truths about herself and attempts to become worthy of the new friends she’s made and, of course, the boy. There’s always a boy… 🙂

No flowery prose or layers of meaning, the writing was as simple and straightforward as the story itself and felt authentic and perceptive. I enjoyed Speechless much more than I thought I would after reading the first couple chapters and encourage anyone who chooses to read this to push through that initial reaction to these characters because the book does get much much better.

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Review: The Immortal Rules

August 22, 2012 § 1 Comment

The Immortal Rules
The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Immortal Rules is a dark, violent, edge of your seat, up all night kind of story. And it is hands down the very best book I’ve read all year. I read and loved Kagawa’s Iron Fey series, but The Immortal Rules is even better. I mean, the first line of the story starts with a public execution, and it just gets darker from there. I was 9 pages in when I knew this book would make it to my favorites list.

The world that Kagawa has created is terrifyingly brilliant with an almost post-apocalyptic or dystopian feel. The US has been decimated by a disease that almost destroyed the human race to the point that vampires, who had before hidden among humans were alarmed that their food source was being wiped out and so created cities where they ruled and kept the humans penned in like sheep under the guise of “protection”. Because outside these walled cities among the ruins of other towns and cities were inhabited by mindless scavenging “rabids” which are essentially vampire zombies. Yes, I said Vampire Zombies. So the vampires protected the humans from these things as well as provided food and necessities to the registered and in return for this protection, the humans were required to give a quota of blood every couple weeks. Those unregistered humans were not required to give blood, but they also were not given food and the penalty for stealing is death. The majority of the humans live in what is called the Fringe, outside the walls of the inner vampire sanctum, but inside the walls of the city itself and out of reach of the rabids.

The main character, Allison, was basically a street urchin, living in abandoned building, eating garbage, bugs, rats or anything just to stay alive. Allie’s bravery, loyalty, and wit quickly endeared her to me. She seemed to be always struggling with a balance between self-preservation and the need to protect those she cared about. Kagawa certainly wasn’t kind to her, this poor girl, throughout the story gets the crap kicked out of her both physically and emotionally as she attempts to hang on to her humanity. While Allie was a kick-ass main character, everyone in the story had a depth and background that made the entire story just come to life. I was drawn so deeply into this story that there were several times that my husband spoke to me from right in front of me that I didn’t even notice him standing there. (He so loves when I do that :P)

And yes, there is a bit of romance between all the blood and starvation. Vampire Zombies be damned, teens will insist upon falling in love, no matter how hopeless it seems. In this situation, however, the romance was absolutely fitting. It built so slowly from them beginning to trust one another based on their actions, then coming to understand one another’s differences. It added yet another poignant element to the story and it definitely worked, despite their differences and despite how impossible things may seem.

The writing was stellar, flawless. Kagawa effortlessly built this bleak and frightening world populated with terrifying creatures, a broken society, and a heroine with a strength built on years of pain and disappointment and yet a capacity to love that almost defies that world she grew up in. I don’t know what I was expecting when I picked up The Immortal Rules, but I know I had no idea I would be so completely blown away by this incredible story. If you haven’t read this yet, you should do so immediately.

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Review: Monument 14

August 21, 2012 § 5 Comments

Monument 14
Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Monument 14 takes place in small town Colorado where 14 kids, ranging in ages from 5 to 16-17 find themselves trapped in a Greenway store while the world falls apart around them. On a seemingly normal day, Dean and his tech-savvy little brother Alex race to catch their school bus. On the way to school, crushing oversize hail begins denting the roof of the bus, breaking the windows, and in an effort to get the kids to safety, the two school buses quickly go to the Greenway store, which seems to be like a super Walmart. Once inside, the bus driver goes to find help and the 14 kids find themselves alone in the store as the riot gates come down essentially trapping them inside, which may be a good thing since they soon find out that a series of natural, and not-so-natural disasters are tearing the US to pieces around them. The Greenway store might be the safest place to be, unless they fall apart themselves.

The plot was pretty fast paced. It definitely kept me reading up into the wee hours of the night. The story had a sort of Lord of the Flies feel with the older kids having a power struggle about who would be in charge and how best to survive. I very much enjoyed the whole concept of the story while the execution sometimes left a little to be desired. Nonetheless, Monument 14 certainly kept me on the edge of my seat.

The story is told from the perspective of Dean, a bookish teen who is chronicling the events as they unfold. The interaction between all of the characters was fascinating. There is one particular character, a 5 or 6 year old named Max who told some of the most outlandish stories about his life. While there were a few crushes and hookups among the older teens, there wasn’t any real romance in this story, although it seemed to be heading in that direction.

The writing sometimes fell a bit short for me. I felt like using the teenage Dean to narrate the story was a way to compensate for less than stellar writing. The story felt choppy in places and jumped around a bit and I would have liked to seen some more character development in the older teens. However, as you see by my 4 star rating, I truly enjoyed Monument 14 and I won’t hesitate to pick up the next in the series. There was quite a cliffhanger ending and not much was resolved in this book, which is a pet peeve of mine and I considered only rating this 3 stars because of that. But I didn’t simply because I really liked this book, despite its flaws.

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