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Review: The Black Country by Alex Grecian

The Black Country by Alex Grecian15814167

Published: May 21st 2013 by Putnam Adult
Format/Source: Purchased hardcover
Genre: Adult historical fiction mystery
Pages: 384

Synopsis:

Scotland Yard’s Murder Squad returns, in the stunning new historical thriller from the author of the acclaimed national bestseller The Yard.

The British Midlands. It’s called the “Black Country” for a reason. Bad things happen there.

When members of a prominent family disappear from a coal-mining village—and a human eyeball is discovered in a bird’s nest—the local constable sends for help from Scotland Yard’s new Murder Squad. Fresh off the grisly 1889 murders of The Yard, Inspector Walter Day and Sergeant Nevil Hammersmith respond, but they have no idea what they’re about to get into. The villagers have intense, intertwined histories. Everybody bears a secret. Superstitions https://playingjokers.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post-new.php?post_type=postabound. And the village itself is slowly sinking into the mines beneath it.

Not even the arrival of forensics pioneer Dr. Bernard Kingsley seems to help. In fact, the more the three of them investigate, the more they realize they may never be allowed to leave. . . .

Review:

I’d give this 2.5 stars…somewhere between it was okay and I liked it.

I really wanted to like it. It had the makings of a good British murder mystery. A Sherlock Holmes, Inspector Lynley, Morse, Lewis, Poirot, etc. I love mysteries like those.

But here’s the thing: the setting was more memorable than any of the characters. The townsfolk are superstitious. There’s a creepy children’s rhyme about a children-killer. The town slowly sinking into the coal mining tunnels. There are suspicious characters galore.

And yet, the story fell flat for me. That is not to say it lacks some action–there is plenty of gore and violence to make it worthy of a pre-Halloween read. But the detectives are strange characters for me. I suppose some of their actions are the product of a detective agency in its infancy/growing up/evolving. But they act like you’d expect amateur detectives to, by running off without really working together, getting into ridiculous situations.

I should have ended the book with a feeling of ‘wow’, or perhaps some lamentation about the human condition. Instead, I nodded my head and closed it up and put it directly back on my bookshelf. Now, time for lunch.

My rating: 2.5/5

#rothreread Insurgent’s Ending

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#rothreread is an effort hosted by Allodoxophobia and Gone Pecan as we reread Divergent and Insurgent to prepare for the final installment of the Divergent trilogy.

I swear sometimes my mind is like a sieve. I finished rereading both Divergent and Insurgent last month and already some of the impact of the ending is leaving me. I clearly need to hurry up and read the short stories and preorder Allegiant. Today’s #rothreread topic is the ending of Insurgent. Which obviously means that there will be spoilers in this post. Don’t be caught unaware! You have been warned.

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I realized that the first time I read Insurgent, I had thought the big name reveal of one of the original inhabitants of this new Chicago was Tris’s mother. That obviously led to a lot of confusion for me. But now that I know that it is not her mother, it makes a bit more sense. I have to admit, the ending still upsets me a little. I don’t appreciate the rug being pulled out from under me as a reader. The thing that saves this book from being thrown across the room is that the main character believed everything the reader was made to believe too. It’s a product of her point of view that were misled. I still don’t know if I truly understand the whole premise of the entire series. Like what really is Divergent? How is not everyone already that way? Is the whole experiment designed to force people to evolve physically, physiologically, psychologically to become more flexible? Wouldn’t it take more effort to evolve to becoming suitable for a single faction than it would to become divergent?

I still am very curious to finish the series, particularly because I really do hope that there are more answers to be found in Allegiant. Perhaps I would be better off keeping my questions to myself and just enjoying the action that throws the reader forward in the book…hmmm.

What did you think of the ending of Insurgent?

Join the conversation!

Review: War by Sebastian Junger

fromthestash
From the Stash is just my way to denote when something is from before I had the blog. I have been reviewing books since January 2010 so I’d like to showcase some of that past work, as well as safeguard my reviews for posterity

7519640War by Sebastian Junger

Published: May 11th 2010 by Twelve
Format/Source: Hardcover borrowed from the library
Genre: Nonfiction
Pages: 304
Originally read: April 2011

Synopsis:

In his breakout bestseller, The Perfect Storm, Sebastian Junger created “a wild ride that brilliantly captures the awesome power of the raging sea and the often futile attempts of humans to withstand it” (Los Angeles Times Book Review). Now, Junger turns his brilliant and empathetic eye to the reality of combat–the fear, the honor, and the trust among men in an extreme situation whose survival depends on their absolute commitment to one another. His on-the-ground account follows a single platoon through a 15-month tour of duty in the most dangerous outpost in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley. Through the experiences of these young men at war, he shows what it means to fight, to serve, and to face down mortal danger on a daily basis.

Review:

I had to read this book for class, but I’ve enjoyed it so much that I keep forgetting it was assigned.

Sebastian Junger was embedded in an Army Airborne unit in the Korengal Valley of Afghanistan, right near the border with Pakistan in 2007. It was and is a place that with a lot of combat. Devoid of overtly political aims or message, Junger describes what a deployment is like, the conditions they are in, and the brotherhood that comes out of it. It’s completely a pro-soldier book with little added about the broader war. It was completely refreshing to read something that strived so hard to portray the facts of a situation and the truth of the people involved without inserting personal beliefs.

I had watched Junger’s documentary, Restrepo, before reading this book and it definitely helped with picturing the people in the book as well as the scenery and events. It is not a book (nor is the documentary) a cheerful read. It is heavy and does not shy away from some of the results of combat. Reader discretion is advised. It was entirely enlightening and I look forward to reading other books like it.

My rating: 5/5

Book News: Awards and an Evolution of Young Adult

Today, I’m highlighting three different articles that I found interesting in the news today concerning our favorite subject: books. (Did you think I would say something else?)

Winner of Man Booker Prize

On Tuesday, Eleanor Catton became the youngest person to ever win the Man Booker Prize for her book, The Luminaries. I have seen advertisements for the book but I hadn’t really taken much notice. But not only is the author the youngest at the age of 28, but the book is the longest to have won as well. This description from The Guardian makes me both want to read the book and feel automatically intimidated:

“Her second novel, a great doorstopper of a murder mystery set against the New Zealand gold rush of the 1860s… She does not make things easy for herself: she has organised her 800-page epic according to astrological principles, so that characters are not only associated with signs of the zodiac, or the sun and moon (the “luminaries” of the title), but interact with each other according to the predetermined movement of the heavens, while each of the novel’s 12 parts decreases in length over the course of the book to mimic the moon waning through its lunar cycle.”

Like *explicative* wow. That’s amazing and scary.

The Man Booker Prize has historically only been for contemporary fiction written by authors from the British Commonwealth and Ireland. But next year, Americans will be allowed to compete, which is already causing some waves of uneasiness by the others (will Americans overshadow the rest of the world?). It’s interesting, and I don’t really have an opinion on that, but I will be interested to see how it plays out.

Shortlist for National Book Awards

The list is getting shorter for the contenders for the National Book Awards. But here’s the thing: I haven’t heard of any of these books. I would have thought that I would at least recognize one book in the list for “young people’s literature”. But, I don’t. This year, probably for people just like me, the National Book Foundation is offering an eBook with excerpts from the finalists. It might be a good way to figure out if any of those books are worth checking out (okay, they’re finalists so obviously they’re worth checking out, but for I mean for me personally).

Evolution of Young Adult Literature

I always get both excited and a bit envious when I stumble upon a book news article quoting book bloggers. It’s a little dream of mine for that to happen to me (I’m being very transparent right now, be honored). This week CNN posted an article about the brief history of young adult literature. In it, two bloggers were quoted and linked to: Lisa from Read. Breathe. Relax. and Erin from Y.A. Book Addicts! It’s an interesting article about some of the different trends and evolution of young adult fiction.

 What have you taken note of in the news this week?

Waiting on Wednesday (11): Allegiant by Veronica Roth

New WoW“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.

Guess what! It’s coming out…next week!!

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Expected publication: October 22nd 2013 by Katherine Tegen Books
Genre: Young adult dystopian
544 pages

Synopsis:

One choice will define you.

What if your whole world was a lie?
What if a single revelation—like a single choice—changed everything?
What if love and loyalty made you do things you never expected?

The faction-based society that Tris Prior once believed in is shattered—fractured by violence and power struggles and scarred by loss and betrayal. So when offered a chance to explore the world past the limits she’s known, Tris is ready. Perhaps beyond the fence, she and Tobias will find a simple new life together, free from complicated lies, tangled loyalties, and painful memories.

But Tris’s new reality is even more alarming than the one she left behind. Old discoveries are quickly rendered meaningless. Explosive new truths change the hearts of those she loves. And once again, Tris must battle to comprehend the complexities of human nature—and of herself—while facing impossible choices about courage, allegiance, sacrifice, and love.

Told from a riveting dual perspective, Allegiant, by #1 New York Times best-selling author Veronica Roth, brings the Divergent series to a powerful conclusion while revealing the secrets of the dystopian world that has captivated millions of readers in Divergent and Insurgent.


As much as I really can’t wait to read this, I think I’d like to read the short stories from Four’s perspective first, just to get completely caught up.

What are you waiting for?

Review: The Diviners by Libba Bray

fromthestashFrom the Stash is just my way to denote when something is from before I had the blog. I have been reviewing books since January 2010 so I’d like to showcase some of that past work, as well as safeguard my reviews for posterity.

The Diviners by Libba Bray13642237

Published: September 25th 2012 by Listening Library
Format/Source: Audio CD borrowed from Cover2CoverBlog
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal in a Historical Fiction setting

Synopsis:

SOMETHING DARK AND EVIL HAS AWAKENED. . . .
Evie O’Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and shipped off to the bustling streets of New York City—and she is pos-i-tute-ly ecstatic. It’s 1926, and New York is filled with speakeasies, Ziegfeld girls, and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is that she has to live with her uncle Will and his unhealthy obsession with the occult.

Evie worries her uncle will discover her darkest secret: a supernatural power that has only brought her trouble so far. But when the police find a murdered girl branded with a cryptic symbol and Will is called to the scene, Evie realizes her gift could help catch a serial killer.

As Evie jumps headlong into a dance with a murderer, other stories unfold in the city that never sleeps. A young man named Memphis is caught between two worlds. A chorus girl named Theta is running from her past. A student named Jericho is hiding a shocking secret. And unknown to all, something dark and evil has awakened. . . .

Review:

…because it isn’t raining you know, it’s raining violets.

Evie is a teenage flapper who hates small town life, misses her WWI-missing brother horribly, and dreams of fame and fun. She occasionally, though perhaps more often than you might think, seeks to achieve those two things by exposing her special gift. By pressing an object into her hand she can tell the owner’s secrets. She is sent away to the Big Apple and her Uncle Will after such an attempt gone wrong.

When you see the clouds upon the hill…

Memphis is a teenage numbers runner who loves is little brother and misses his mother terribly. Both he and his brother have special gifts too, but Memphis hasn’t been able to use his in a while. But life can continue to throw curve balls and sometimes someone can surprise you. Theta has a past and lives with her ‘brother’ Henry. They are in the show business, because there ain’t no business like show business like no business I know. Sam is a pickpocket who gets by using his special gift. He wants to woo Evie and find out the meaning behind his mother’s disappearance into something called Project Buffalo.

…you will soon see crowds of daffodils…

With mysticism, red herrings, and about three other important characters of varying mystery (for example, a communist and a Frankenstein), Evie, Sam, and her Uncle are on the hunt for a mysterious occult serial killer. The mystery is a paranormal, haunted house kind of thrilling mystery that was my favorite part. Are they going to be able to figure out what is going on and how to stop it? And with the roaring Twenties, there are lots of cultural nuances and fun jazzy elements that can pique a historical fiction fan’s interest. I really wanted to learn more about the world they were living in and the even further past. The characters were compelling and I found not too bothered when many of them were not actually doing anything that was connected to the main plot. I loved that Evie, as a main character in a book that is being marketed for the young adult audience was not terribly whiny, angsty, or even too innocent/naive/goody two shoes. I appreciated her flawed character that was flawed because of who she is rather than her being a product of some outrageous flare of angst. Though perhaps that is related to while this book has young adult main characters, I’m not as certain that it is a young adult book.

…so keep on looking for the bluebird, and listening for his song…

But there’s a coming storm that keeps being alluded to, and goes unsolved and unclarified for the whole book. And the Diviners themselves generally live their lives apart from one another, and so the foundation is set for perhaps the true Diviners book, a sequel. The book built up to a different ending than expected, almost like a short stop. So really, this book was is more of a foundation novel, a prologue for the real story. I enjoyed the story, but I find myself feeling a certain lack of closure on a few things and wondering if there was more significance in certain events than what it seemed; because there were some things that felt like outliers.

…whenever April showers come along.

My rating: 4.5/5

Spooktacular Giveaway Hop! Three Books for the Taking

Spooktacular2013

The Spooktacular Giveaway Hop is hosted by I am a Reader, Not a Writer. Check out the rest of the over 350 blogs and their associated giveaways here!

 

I’ve been reading some spooky stories and thrilling mysteries for October, and now I’m giving away three different books to get others in the mood too!

So for the ground rules:

  • As per usual, I’d prefer if only those 13+ entered, just to alleviate any fears of corrupting the youth, or whatever.
  • This giveaway is open to those in the US/Canada only. My apologies those who are international!
  • There will be TWO winners: the main winner will get to pick TWO of the three books listed, the second winner will receive the third.
  • The ONLY way to enter is by entering through the rafflecopter. I will not accept any comment-based entries. Sorry, but they spam my email!
  • If selected as the winner, you have 48 hours to respond with your shipping address (and your choices if you are the main winner) before I select different winner.
  • The giveaway ends on Nov. 1 at 12:00 am.

Good luck!

Choice 1:

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Blood Song by Cat Adams (Paperback ARC)

Blood Song is the first book in a fantastic urban fantasy series by bestselling author Cat Adams.

Bodyguard Celia Graves has definitely accepted her share of weird assignments, both human and supernatural. But her newest job takes the cake. Guarding a Prince from terrorists and religious fundamentalists is hard enough, but it seems like the entire supernatural world is after this guy too. When she is betrayed by those she is employed to help, and everything goes horribly wrong, Celia wakes to find herself transformed.

Neither human nor vampire, Celia has become an Abomination—something that should not exist—and now both human and supernatural alike want her dead. With the help of a few loyal friends—a sexy mage, a powerful werewolf, and a psychic cop—Celia does her best to stay alive. On the run from her enemies, Celia must try to discover who is behind her transformation…before it’s too late.

Choice 2:

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Life Expectancy by Dean Koontz (Paperback)

Jimmy Tock comes into the world on the very night his grandfather leaves it. As a violent storm rages outside the hospital, Rudy Tock spends long hours walking the corridors between the expectant fathers’ waiting room and his dying father’s bedside. It’s a strange vigil made all the stranger when, at the very height of the storm’s fury, Josef Tock suddenly sits up in bed and speaks coherently for the frist and last time since his stroke.

What he says before he dies is that there will be five dark days in the life of his grandson—five dates whose terrible events Jimmy will have to prepare himself to face. The first is to occur in his twentieth year; the second in his twent-third year; the third in his twenty-eighth; the fourth in his twenty-ninth; the fifth in his thirtieth.

Rudy is all too ready to discount his father’s last words as a dying man’s delusional rambling. But then he discovers that Josef also predicted the time of his grandson’s birth to the minute, as well as his exact height and weight, and the fact that Jimmy would be born with syndactyly—the unexplained anomal of fused digits—on his left foot. Suddenly the old man’s predictions take on a chilling significance.

What terrifying events await Jimmy on these five dark days? What nightmares will he face? What challenges must he survive? As the novel unfolds, picking up Jimmy’s story at each of these crisis points, the path he must follow will defy every expectation. And with each crisis he faces, he will move closer to a fate he could never have imagined. For who Jimmy Tock is and what he must accomplish on the five days when his world turns is a mystery as dangerous as it is wondrous—a struggle against an evil so dark and pervasive, only the most extraordinary of human spirits can shine through.

Choice 3:

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Cross Country by James Patterson (Paperback)

When the home of Alex Cross’s longtime friend, Ellie Cox, is turned into the worst murder scene Alex has ever seen, he is devastated. The destruction leads him to believe that he’s chasing a horrible new breed of killer. As Alex and his girlfriend Brianna Stone begin the hunt for the villain responsible for the killings, they quickly find themselves entangeled in the deadly Nigerian underworld of Washington D.C.. What they discover is shocking: a strongly organized gang of teenage thugs headed by a powerful, diabolical man-The Tiger.

As the killing spree escalates, Alex and Brianna realize they are not dealing with any ordinary killer, but one who has brought his personal war of vengeance to America’s capital. But just when the detectives think they’re closing in on the elusive murderer, the Tiger disappears into thin air. Unable to let the killer get away with this narrow escape, Alex makes it his duty to bring the brutal butcher to justice. He knows that he must follow The Tiger. Alone.

When Alex arrives in Nigeria, he discovers a world where justice is as foreign as he is. Unprotected and alone in a strange country, bombarded on all sides by the murderous threats of The Tiger, Alex must draw on his fiercest instincts just to survive in a lawless world.
From the author Time magazine has called “the man who can’t miss,” Cross Country is the most breathtaking, heart-stopping, electrifing Alex Cross thriller yet.

Good luck! Remember, to enter the giveaway go to this rafflecopter. And also check out all those other giveaways!

Book Club Update: Author Interview & 2 Books!

It’s a new month (okay, so it’s the middle of the month…time is really flying this season!) and that means a new book club update!

Last month, my book club read The Hunt and met with the author, Jan Neuharth in the very town that the fictional murder mystery takes place. It was a great experience and the club really liked it!

Book club members and Jan Neuharth

We asked Ms. Neuharth about her writing process, about the publishing industry and who she would want to cast as her characters in a movie (the main character would be George Clooney!). We met at a lovely coffee place that was gracious enough to allow us to descend on their establishment. As you can see, we had copies of the book to have Ms. Neuharth sign them.

So for October, we were all a little indecisive. There are just so many cool things to do in the fall and so many appropriately themed books to get us in the mood for Halloween and autumn. In fact, the poll we had to decide our next book was so close that we are trying to read two books in one month for the first time. The first pick is The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black, which I have already finished and loved! The second book I’m working on now, The Black Country by Alex Grecian. It’s really the perfect book for the rainy weather we’ve been getting this week. We plan on going to one of those pumpkin patch, corn mazes, apple butter kinds of places for our meeting next Sunday so I’m definitely excited to see these girls again!

Are you in a book club? How does your club select the books to read?

DNF Review: Tumble & Fall by Alexandra Coutts

Tumble & Fall by Alexandra Coutts17332270

Published: September 17th 2013 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Format/Source: Paperback Advanced Reading Copy from BookExpo America
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary/Apocalyptic
Pages: 384

Synopsis:

A novel about the end of days full of surprising beginnings.

The world is living in the shadow of oncoming disaster. An asteroid is set to strike the earth in just one week’s time; catastrophe is unavoidable. The question isn’t how to save the world—the question is, what to do with the time that’s left? Against this stark backdrop, three island teens wrestle with intertwining stories of love, friendship and family—all with the ultimate stakes at hand.

Alexandra Coutts’s TUMBLE & FALL is a powerful story of courage, love, and hope at the end of the world

Review:

So I know everyone likes to handle books they did not finish differently. I generally finish books that I don’t like anyways because of either morbid curiosity or some deep-rooted sense that it is my duty, particularly if I received a review copy.

It is for my very sparing use of book abandonment that I feel like it is important that I at least share why I couldn’t finish Tumble & Fall.

I love the cover. I had heard of a few people looking forward to reading this book, making me decide to pick up a copy and read it. Now it is entirely possible that because all the other books I read around this book were absolutely amazing that it made this one seem that much duller than it really is. However, I kept trying to make it through it, using different techniques (setting a page goal for each sitting, speed reading, etc.) to try to finish it. But when I realized that I was dreading picking it up, that I was choosing to go straight to bed instead of reading, I made the call to put it down.

The premise could be cool. An asteroid will destroy the world as we know it and people have one week to enjoy life. But as many reviewers have noted, no one is really reacting in the world as you might expect. No one’s looting, no one’s really freaking out, hoarding, sheltering in fallout shelters…instead, people are poetically dealing with it in different emotional ways. Painting, going about their regular business, mourning those already lost, and trying to reconnect with those they have ignored for years. I think it was meant to be a poetic story, one with quiet reflection instead of mass panic.

It’s entirely possible that I was just not in the right mood for this. I found it very depressing and difficult to keep the characters straight. It alternates points of view between different teenagers, and it was hard to figure out who was feeling angst about what.

I truly hate not finishing a book and I hate that I have to write such a negative review concerning this book. But I don’t foresee myself giving this book another chance. Perhaps it would be better with someone in the right frame of mind. But for me, it was a no-go.

My rating: 1/5