Archive for April, 2014

Here’s where my inner nerd shows through. One of my favorite periods of history to read about is world war two. Maus and Schindler’s Ark are two of my recent reads on the topic (both great books – check them out).

199 days: The Battle for Stalingrad is more of a textbook than those two. Maus is a graphic novel, and Schindler’s Ark is a set of autobiographical accounts put together to make a fantastic book that reads almost like a novel. Still, don’t let the word ‘textbook’ put you off. I found this an engaging read. It was easy to understand, and I read through it relatively quickly.

One major criticism of the book seems to be that it doesn’t go into enough detail. I’ll agree that it’s more of an overview, but it had enough details to be really interesting. It was published in 1999, so is a little out of date, but I enjoyed it. That’s important. So many history books can be dry and boring. This was one of the few that proved it doesn’t need to be that way. History is interesting, and world war two is one of the most interesting periods of history in my opinion. I don’t understand why some authors seem to go out of their way to make it sound like something designed to put you to sleep.

Though the focus of the book is Stalingrad (as hinted by the title), there’s an interesting overview of events leading up to the battle. It talks about Stalin’s purges, and Hitler’s overconfidence. The structure is sound, leading you through the events that led up to the battle, and then the battle itself, and then a little about afterward. It flowed well. There’s nothing worse for me than a history book that skips around. I find it all gets muddled up in my head as to what happened when. This laid it all out for me in a way that let me understand it.

In my opinion, if you’re interested in world war two like I am, then it’s worth a read. There are more up to date books out there, but few I’ve come across as engaging as this one.

For more reviews on this book, check out: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/262399.199_Days

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I’ve found a new favorite author: Dennis Lehane. That’s how much I liked this book.

Here’s the blurb:

Patrick Kenzie and Angie Gennaro know their home, rough neighborhoods of South Boston. Their first PI job seems simple – find Jenna, a black cleaner, and confidential state documents she stole. Extortion, assassination, and child prostitution extend from the ghetto to the government. The worst atrocities are closest to home, and committed in the name of love.

This is the first book in a series I’m eager to read the rest of. Lehane doesn’t shirk from tough topics, something I learned reading mystic river, which I’ll write a review on eventually. Considering that, it was surprising how much humor there was in this book.

Patrick, our narrator, is full of snark. But when things get serious, he gets serious too. That about sums up the book. There are lines that made me laugh out loud, lines that made me want to cry, and even lines that were so insightful they made me look at the world a different way.

I went into this steeling myself against the difficult topics like child prostitution I knew would be brought up, but they didn’t appear until a good chunk of the way into the book which I thought was a good move. It let me get to know the characters a bit more before you get the punch in the gut that brings that topic into play. So if you’re a bit afraid of the entire book being full of that issue, don’t. When it comes up it does get a bit graphic, but it doesn’t appear until a good third of the way in, and I think was treated respectfully.

The thing I loved most about this book was the relationship between Patrick and Angie. They were just so close, like finishing sentences type of close. They seemed to know each other better than they knew themselves. There’s one moment when they get in an argument, and Angie knows just what to say to poke the deepest most vulnerable part of Patrick, and Patrick immediately does the same to her. And then a couple minutes later they brush it all away and are best friends again. To me, that’s the definition of true friendship. You know each other inside and out, including the parts you don’t want to admit. No one can destroy you as easily as your best friend can, and sometimes you fight, but you always make up again.

And I can’t write a review on this book without mentioning Bubba. He’s been their friend for a long, long time, and he hates just about everyone but them. He was awesome, just about the cutest giant gun toting psychopath ever. There were times when I honestly didn’t know whether to grin at his loyalty to his friends, or be very, very afraid.

The plot was good. Twisty enough to be enjoyable. There was at least one big twist in there I didn’t see coming, which is always a neat thing. Not anything that made me throw up my hands and go ‘oh my god,’ but a decent amount of twists.

My opinion: if you like mysteries, try this one. I loved it so much I’m thinking of buying the next one, even though I have over a hundred books I already have access to that I really should read first.

Link to more reviews on this book: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/21685.A_Drink_Before_the_War

Another zombie one. Yup, it’s a bit of a theme. I love a good zombie book.

This one is different to the usual zombie books I go for. It’s a zombie humor novel. Sounds a little odd, right? Humor is not the first thing that comes to mind when I think of zombies. It’s a good one though, take a look at the blurb:

‘R’ is a zombie. He has no name, no memories and no pulse, but he has dreams. He is a little different from his fellow Dead.

Amongst the ruins of an abandoned city, R meets a girl. Her name is Julie and she is the opposite of everything he knows – warm and bright and very much alive, she is a blast of colour in a dreary grey landscape. For reasons he can’t understand, R chooses to save Julie instead of eating her, and a tense yet strangely tender relationship begins.

This has never happened before. It breaks the rules and defies logic, but R is no longer content with life in the grave. He wants to breathe again, he wants to live, and Julie wants to help him. But their grim, rotting world won’t be changed without a fight…

What you may or may not pick up from this is that this book is essentially a modern version of Romeo and Juliet (look at the names), except Romeo is a zombie, and Juliet is a girl he almost kills. I’m not sure whether I like that fact or not. I think it could cope without it.

Anyways, this one did have some major flaws. The plot was slow, and for a zombie book there wasn’t much action. This is definitely more of a humor / romance than a ‘die die zombie book.’ That’s not a bad thing, but there were a few areas where there could have been a bit more action before everything was wrapped up (like near the end). The plot points that were there were also rather convenient and fluffy.

What made this book 4 stars for me, instead of 3 or 2 was the humor. I chuckled way too much reading this to give it a low rating. And despite my logical mind wanting to poke at the plot holes caused by the rather fluffy reason why R is so changed (like why the heck this hasn’t happened before), I kind of liked the candy coated idea that *Spoilers* (love can conquer all, including death).

So my advise: read an extract and see if the humor appeals to you. If so, give this one a go. Link to more reviews for this book: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7619057-warm-bodies (more…)

I’ll set the scene for you: In the middle of a major zombie and vampire novel stint I came across ‘The hallowed ones.’ Another vampire novel, the ratings were decent, but I had a lot on my ‘to read’ pile, so it had to really sell me. Then I read the blurb:

Katie is on the verge of her Rumspringa, the time in Amish life when teenagers can get a taste of the real world. But the real world comes to her in this dystopian tale with a philosophical bent. Rumors of massive unrest on the “Outside” abound. Something murderous is out there. Amish elders make a rule: No one goes outside, and no outsiders come in. But when Katie finds a gravely injured young man, she can’t leave him to die. She smuggles him into her family’s barn—at what cost to her community? The suspense of this vividly told, truly horrific thriller will keep the pages turning.

Amish AND vampires! I’m there!

This isn’t a book without flaws. Some of Katie’s actions seemed immature, but then again she is a teenager, so I might be expecting too much from her. The plot was slow in places, and I wasn’t sure about Katie’s relationship with mysterious stranger Alex. I liked that they didn’t get on right away, but even when they did get on they didn’t really click in my head.

Good points:

Flawed characters. Katie makes mistakes, and seems a little pig headed at times, but her heart is in the right place. Elijah the jerk started off as a really nice guy before fear and jealously changed him. Even Katie’s parents, who are seriously loving, make some mistakes as the book goes on.

The Amish culture. I don’t know how accurate it is since I’m not an expert, but the way the book immersed you in the Amish culture was impressive. You learned a lot, but the author was careful to show you instead of infodump.

The vampires. Scary, scary things. No sparkling here. They were closer to the vampires from ‘the passage’ than the usual angsty looking guys with sharp teeth, but they had times of appearing human enough to make their lack of humanity terrifying. They can think and plan, and all their plans include killing people. There’s a moment when you see what they’re really capable of. You’ll know it when you see it. It sent a shiver down my spine.

Religion. Now this is what made this book so different to other books about vampires. I’ve found modern books go out of their way to deny the link between religion and vampires, but this one embraces it. It leads to an interesting look at the power of belief, and a conclusion that I fully support that it doesn’t matter what you believe, just that you believe it.  I think this was my favorite part of the book, but if you aren’t open to at least think about other religions, or consider religion in general if you’re a non believer (which I am), then you might not enjoy this part.

My opinion: not the best YA I’ve read recently, but a good one. Worth a read if you like YA horror.

And in case you want to look at some other people’s opinions on the book, here’s the goodreads page: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13018514-the-hallowed-ones

 

I’d heard a lot of good things about this book before I dived in, but I can say with confidence that it lived up to my expectations.

Let’s have a look at the blurb:

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. 

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

Sounds neat, right? I love a good fairy tale revamp, and Cinderella as a cyborg? There’s no way I could say no to that.

There are so many things I loved about this book. The characters were awesome. Cinder was an interesting character full of insecurities (which make sense when you see how she’s treated by those around her), but she really grows through the book, coming out the other end a much stronger person.

The other characters are well developed. Prince Kai is the charming guy who struggles with having to take on a lot of responsibility at a young age. There’s some really good banter between him and Cinder. Their relationship struck me as friendship first, attraction second, which in a world full of YA insta love is awesome. There are way too many books where the main character falls head over heels for someone, and they don’t even try to get to know the other person.

The ‘evil’ step family were three dimensional. The youngest step sister Peony was actually really nice, while the other sister Pearl was not, but you could understand why she wasn’t. In many ways she was an older sister hating the disruption of the addition of a new younger sibling into her family (Cinder), and never getting past that because of her cyborg hating mother. And even the step mother I felt sorry for at times! She’s a penny pinching racist (do cyborgs count as a race?) pig, but deep down she’s just looking for someone to blame for her husband, and later her daughter being taken away from her.

And Iko! The android who thinks she’s a human. She’s awesome, I loved her. She’s just so darn human and funny. Think a teenage girl squealing about hot guys, except as a little pear shaped android.

The world was rich and descriptive, and in no way short of drama. So you’ve got this plague that kills a whole load of people, and everyone is scared they’re next. And you’ve got this evil mind controlling Lunar queen who threatens to take over the earth. And then you’ve got all this extra danger Cinder is under because she’s a cyborg, so has zero rights.

Then there’s the more human dramas, because in Cinder’s head she’s not a cyborg, she’s a teenage girl who wants to go to the ball, who wants the guy to like her without being repulsed by what she is. But she’s afraid to want those things because she’s scared and insecure. That’s what I like most about Cinder, she’s this teenage girl who hasn’t accepted what she is, but she doesn’t let it stop her having a kick ass personality and doing what’s right. She’s proof that a character can be vulnerable and strong at the same time.

The plot was good with lots of twists, including one big one I guessed pretty quick (but I usually do, so that’s not to say it’s too obvious). I’d say the best things about this book were characters, the world, the humor and the action. The plot was less good than those things, but still very solid and enjoyable.

I gave Cinder five stars! I say if you like YA then go try this out. Heck, even if you stick to more adult fantasy then still try this out. It’s a fun read.

As always, here’s the link to the goodreads page in case you want to read more reviews on this book: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11235712-cinder