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

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

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

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

Review: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

12813630The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

Published: September 3rd 2013 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Format/Source: Paperback Advanced Reading Copy from BookExpo America
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal
Pages: 419

Synopsis:

Tana lives in a world where walled cities called Coldtowns exist. In them, quarantined monsters and humans mingle in a decadently bloody mix of predator and prey. The only problem is, once you pass through Coldtown’s gates, you can never leave.

One morning, after a perfectly ordinary party, Tana wakes up surrounded by corpses. The only other survivors of this massacre are her exasperatingly endearing ex-boyfriend, infected and on the edge, and a mysterious boy burdened with a terrible secret. Shaken and determined, Tana enters a race against the clock to save the three of them the only way she knows how: by going straight to the wicked, opulent heart of Coldtown itself.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is a wholly original story of rage and revenge, of guilt and horror, and of love and loathing from bestselling and acclaimed author Holly Black.

Review:

When you’re drinking a fine wine, you want to take small sips, enjoying the layers of flavor. As tempting as it is to drink many glasses, you try not to overdo it. And yet, sometimes it happens.

I liken my experience of reading The Coldest Girl in Coldtown to drinking that fine wine. Each chapter was a delicious morsel that I was trying to savor before I picked up too much momentum and began tumbling down the stairs. Needless to say, my self-restraint failed after a certain point and I spent most of my weekend finishing the book in newborn vampire hunger.

It had been a while since I had read a vampire story. I think the last one was probably a Charlaine Harris southern vampire novel. That series is great fun but The Coldest Girl in Coldtown definitely had a different vibe to it. There’s nothing quite like a novel beginning with a 30+ teenager massacre and a girl stumbling out of being passed out in the bathtub to discover the entire party’s population dead and drained. It definitely sets the mood for the rest of the story.

There were parts of the novel that I was confused about. Questions where I was wondering if I had skipped a paragraph or something (which I have been known to do by accident). However, most of those questions are answered as the story progresses. Don’t expect everything to be immediately known and understood right away, or even completely after your first read. This is a book that I strongly believe will only grow on me more with a reread. I think I missed some of the carefully laid details that make such a detailed world. I particularly love how the vampires bloat like leeches or ticks after a feeding—it’s those details that make is so much more real and different. Very believable. I also love how it’s basically a pandemic biological disaster—the disaster preparedness part of me found that fascinating.

I do wish the ending was a bit more concrete, but I am okay with it as it is. It leaves it up to your imagination as much as I’m dying for more of this world.

It’s a young adult book, but I really think that if this had been published before that marketing label was so widely used, it would have fit just fine in the science fiction/fantasy/paranormal adult genre. There are really only two factors that make it young adult for me: the age of the protagonist and the lack of sex. Otherwise, it is entirely an adult-styled book.

I really believe that this is a book that will remain on my bookshelf and be read at least once more. I highly recommend this book—particularly to get you in the mood for Halloween!

My rating: 5/5

Calvert’s Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

15783514The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Published: June 18th, 2013 by William Morrow Books
Format/Source: Purchased hardcover
Genre: Fantasy

Synopsis:

Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn’t thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she’d claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.

Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what.

A groundbreaking work from a master, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is told with a rare understanding of all that makes us human, and shows the power of stories to reveal and shelter us from the darkness inside and out. It is a stirring, terrifying, and elegiac fable as delicate as a butterfly’s wing and as menacing as a knife in the dark.

Review:

The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a very unique book. At times it feels like a children’s story, but the narrative is punctuated by mature thoughts and insights periodically. I found that the writing style of an adult retelling a childhood memory very pleasant, as it mimicked how I would do the same.

The Ocean is a very short book. Not quite what I would call a novel, but longer than a short story. It made a nice bathtub book. In that short span, Gaiman drew me into the world of the main character, who remains unnamed, as he recalls a childhood memory previously forgotten. I found myself begging for more detail on the Hempstocks and their lives, but was ultimately denied. That is not to say that the book was disappointing. On the contrary, I found it to be the sort that stays with you after it’s done. The kind of story that leaves a hole in you chest, that prompts you to sit and reflect before you continue on with your life.

All in all, I have absolutely no complaints or criticisms. A full twenty-four hours later I am still in the afterglow of this fantastic novel.

My rating: 5/5

calvert

Review: Storm Watcher by Maria V. Snyder

15846011Storm Watcher by Maria V. Snyder

Published: October 2013 by Leap Books
Format/Source: ARC from BookExpo America 2013
Genre: Middle grade contemporary
Pages: 184

Synopsis:

Luke Riley is lost. His mother’s recent death has set Luke and his family adrift. Even though his father, twin brothers, and their three Bloodhounds are search and rescue volunteers, they have been unable to rescue themselves and become a family again. The summer after sixth grade looms in Luke’s mind as a long, lonely three months where the only thing he can look forward to is watching The Weather Channel. Luke is fascinated with the weather, but since his mother’s death in a storm, he is also terrified. Even the promised 13th birthday present of a Bloodhound puppy fails to lift Luke’s spirits. He would rather have a different breed – a petite Papillon, but his father insists he get a Bloodhound.

When Luke decides to get the Bloodhound from Willajean, a dog breeder who owns Storm Watcher Kennel, he works out a deal to help at her kennel in exchange for the expensive dog. Thrilled to have a summer with a purpose, Luke befriends Willajean’s daughter, Megan and together they plan how Luke can get a Papillon puppy instead of a Bloodhound. But nothing seems to work as they struggle with stubborn fathers, summer storms, unhelpful siblings, and hidden guilt. Can one little white dog really save both families?

Review:

When I reached Ms. Snyder in the autographing line, I gushed, “I loved the Study series! I’m excited for this book!” Her eyes paused over me for a moment longer than what was necessarily comfortable or expected and she said, “This book is nothing like the Study series.” I was taken a little aback and mumbled an, “Oh, okay! Well I’m looking forward to it.” She signed the book and I quickly walked away, a little ashamed and red in the face.

I couldn’t get that memory out of my mind when I picked up Storm Watcher to begin reading. But it really didn’t take long to understand the merit behind what she had said. Storm Watcher is not the Study series. I haven’t read her other books, but I would assume that it varies from them as well. Storm Watcher is a middle grade contemporary story about a boy dealing with loss and finding love where he had grown to accept its loss.

Storm Watcher is written in that simple and yet artful style that first made me love the Study series. Luke has lost his mother and is grappling with the loss. He is terrified of storms in a family of search and rescue dog trainers. He wants a Papillion instead of another Bloodhound in his family.

I’m a twenty-something year old woman and I loved the book despite it being meant for 9-14 year old. The weather symbols to describe different things and what was happening were really artful. It really shows what an experienced writer Ms. Snyder is. It also made a lot more sense once I read Ms. Snyder’s new bio about being a meteorologist—you can totally see the connection with the details. It was an intelligent read that did not speak down to the reader. The drama was real; it was something that I was instantly relatable despite never having been in a similar situation.

I would definitely recommend this book for children, and really anyone who can appreciate a middle grade book. I would also recommend having a dog to cuddle with while enjoying the story. It really makes you pine for one.

My rating: 5/5

Book News: Goodreads Policy Change and Commentary

If you’ve had your ear to the ground in the book world this past week, you’d likely have heard about the controversial actions taken by Goodreads. If you aren’t keyed into such news, then you’ve very likely not heard anything about it, hence some of the controversy.

Here’s the (un-detailed) detailed summary of the situation, with my commentary (of course):

  • Goodreads changed their policy regarding reviews and author guidelines earlier this year. They now request that authors don’t engage with negative reviews but instead advise them to flag the negative review if it doesn’t comply with said review guidelines.

Fine. I expected some changes with Amazon’s acquisition of Goodreads. In fact, I really don’t think that this will be the last of the changes made to Goodreads’ business practices and policies. They might exclaim that they are still a good ole ethical want-to-good website, but when you’re owned by a big business whose business is making money, freedom to make those decisions goes away. The motives change. I’m not upset by it (maybe a little) but I recognize it as reality. It is what it is. One theory I’ve heard is that they are prepping for the option to cross-post reviews onto Amazon.

  • Goodreads did not make any site-wide announcement about the revisions to their policy.

I wouldn’t have thought that Goodreads would want to take a leaf out of Facebook’s book, so to speak. This to me stinks of all those little sneaky policy changes that Facebook used to/still does that caused enough outrage that Facebook had to implement a voting option to allow users to weigh in on policy changes. Albeit, that hasn’t exactly worked out thanks to the apathy of users, but still, I expected better from Goodreads (despite my realist attitude above).

  • Goodreads began to delete users’ shelves and reviews if they were deemed in violation of new policy—without giving any warning to the users (who at this point were in good-standing with Goodreads and were not aware of the policy change). The reviews deleted were supposedly those that had attacked an author’s behavior in a way that was not related to the book. The intent behind the shelves deleted was determined by Goodreads, and those that were used by users to group books in a negative way.

The key thing here: without prior notice of anything. It has been labeled as an attempt at censorship by some. Goodreads has since updated their little announcement thread (the only place this has been announced) in a group that users have to join. They apologize for making those deletions without notice and aim to send users a notification prior to their reviews or shelves being deleted.

  • Goodreads intends to continue reviewing and deleting those shelves and reviews that are written negatively in a way that does to pertain to the review.

Okay, so here’s where things get a bit complicated. Some people don’t find a review written in a complete attack against an author, sometimes before the book has even been published, to be helpful and shouldn’t have a place in Goodreads.

However, where is the line drawn? It has come out through authors’ Twitter feeds that authors are being encouraged to flag negative reviews (though really only when it is in violation of the review policy). This wasn’t instantly known by users of Goodreads either. GR-Amazon (pronounced gramazon…you’re welcome) wants to put a stop to some of the bullying attacks that can happen any online commenting/opinion forum. But if they are really trying to make the reviews about books, shouldn’t those reviews that go in the opposite direction (praise for an author without bring rooted in the exact book) be flagged? There is a genuine worry that more power is being given to authors to flag any negative review that they don’t like.

People sometimes want to consider an author’s beliefs, behavior, and/or history when deciding to consume a book. Those are factors that they find important in a review. Does this mean that Goodreads is no longer a forum for readers, but instead a tool for Amazon to sell more books?

A big problem I have with all of this is some of the interpretation that Goodreads has to do in order to make these deletions. Examples are shelves named ‘taa,’ ‘Hormel,’ and ‘due to author’ were deleted, despite their benign names. Goodreads inferred that the point of those shelves was to categorize books that the user viewed in a negative way due to an author’s behavior. Huh? And then there’s some weird stuff happening to people’s reviews, like review dates being changed as heard about from the Sword and Laser book club’s discussion about this.

This erupted over the weekend, and a few people have made the decision to discontinue use of Goodreads. The current problem is that there are no really satisfactory alternatives to Goodreads, especially for book clubs. Some users have started accounts at Booklikes.com, which as far as I understand it is like a Tumblr for books (I’ll probably be making an account there soon myself, just to stay current.). I wonder if this means that there will be an increase importance on blogs as a source for uncensored (though I’d temper that with reasonable and respectful) thoughts on books and their authors.

I shall try to stay current with these changes, as I’m curious to see if GR-Amazon will establish criteria to make these deletions less subjective. In the end, as it has been repeated a few times, it is a free service and we are at the whims of the big business. And we have the freedom of choice and the ability to discuss.

How did you hear about this? What are your thoughts? Are you going to be jumping ship or will you stick with Goodreads?

Review: Vicious by V.E. Schwab

Vicious by V.E. Schwab13638125

Published: September 24th 2013 by Tor
Format/Source: ARC from BookExpo America
Genre: Adult Science Fiction/Paranormal
Pages: 368

Synopsis:

A masterful, twisted tale of ambition, jealousy, betrayal, and superpowers, set in a near-future world.

Victor and Eli started out as college roommates—brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognized the same sharpness and ambition in each other. In their senior year, a shared research interest in adrenaline, near-death experiences, and seemingly supernatural events reveals an intriguing possibility: that under the right conditions, someone could develop extraordinary abilities. But when their thesis moves from the academic to the experimental, things go horribly wrong.

Ten years later, Victor breaks out of prison, determined to catch up to his old friend (now foe), aided by a young girl whose reserved nature obscures a stunning ability. Meanwhile, Eli is on a mission to eradicate every other super-powered person that he can find—aside from his sidekick, an enigmatic woman with an unbreakable will. Armed with terrible power on both sides, driven by the memory of betrayal and loss, the archnemeses have set a course for revenge—but who will be left alive at the end?

In Vicious, V. E. Schwab brings to life a gritty comic-book-style world in vivid prose: a world where gaining superpowers doesn’t automatically lead to heroism, and a time when allegiances are called into question.

Review:

Once upon a time there was a girl in shock over the ever-book-lovin’-goodness of Book Expo America in NYC. She managed to find herself in line for Holly Black’s signing of The Coldest Girl in Coldtown Advanced Reading Copies. As she’s standing in line, the person in front of her keeps having people coming up to her to take pictures and to chat. The girl begins to wonder, who is this person standing in line?

That girl was me and that person was Victoria Schwab, a few hours before her own signing of Vicious ARCs. I admit, I had never heard of her before or her books, but I was new to the whole being a lucid reader/educated bookie (the book-lovin’ kind, not the gambling kind). Let’s call it fate, as much as Victor would hate to say such a thing, because really, I found a great book that day.

Vicious is an adult super-villain tale. I feel like that alone makes it stand out. I have mentioned before that I am not a comic book person. I do not read comic books. In fact, I have not seen most of those incessant superhero movies that keep coming out. The only one I’ve watched is The Green Lantern (which I know isn’t even the best one). No Superman, Batman, Iron Man, Fantastic Four, X-Men, and whatever other freak movies there are out there for me. It’s strange, I know but I digress.

I want to make it clear that you do not have to be a comic book or superhero fan to enjoy this book. The first chapter is enough to make it the perfect autumn read.

“The shovel was almost as tall as she was. A few days shy of her thirteenth birthday, and even for twelve and eleven twelfths, Sydney Clarke was small. She had always been on the short side, but it certainly didn’t help that she had barely grown an inch since the day she’d died.” (Quote from an ARC to be checked against a finished copy.)

It is sentences like that one that are so matter-of-fact and yet so spooky it really makes the reader in me start jigging with happiness. In fact, perhaps I took longer with this book than I might have because I wanted to make sure I didn’t rush through it.

Vicious is written with short chapters that vary from third person point of views. Each chapter leads to the next easily though, as each chapter explains something from the past one that then lays the foundation for the next. It helps build a complete and fulfilling story without rushing through it.

So at quick glance, the reasons why I really liked Vicious:

  • The characters are multi-dimensional and not necessarily black and white. There’s a lot of gray and doubt that is created that makes it a solid read.
  • The ending was complete. There is no annoying cliffhanger for a sequel. I read it, I felt completely satisfied.
  • It is a book that stays with you for a while after reading it. I admit, I was going to award this book four stars for, “I really liked it,” but when I found myself still thinking about it while driving, then it got bumped to five, “It’s amazing.” I want a book to do that to me.
  • It has the right level of creepy without being over-dramatic.

I’d definitely recommend it to anyone who is looking for an entertaining, supernatural and perfect-for-Halloween-or-really-anytime book.

My rating: 5/5

Review: The Red Dragon by L. Ron Hubbard

15812479The Red Dragon by L. Ron Hubbard

Published: June 24th 2013 by Galaxy Audio
Format/Source: Audio CD from LibraryThing Early Reviewers
Genre: Adventure Action

Synopsis:

As a lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps—as handsome and cocky as Richard Gere—Michael Stuart was once considered an officer and a gentleman. But that’s all changed. Now he’s seen as a renegade, a traitor and a thief.

Stuart is a man without a country . . . and perhaps without a prayer. Why? Because in a daring plot to foil the Japanese puppet regime in China, he set out to reinstate the country’s true emperor. Known now as The Red Dragon, Stuart is a soldier of fortune in war-torn Manchuria—and a man of honor in a world of treachery.

Stuart’s latest adventure takes him from Peking to the Great Wall and beyond. He’s in a race against time and against the Japanese super-spy known as the Hell-Cat, both of them in hot pursuit of an elusive black chest. For Stuart, the ultimate prize is one filled with mystery, power, and treasure—not only in the chest itself, but in the love of the beautiful woman who has sent him on this mission. . .

It was on Hubbard’s second journey to East Asia that he met British Secret Service agent, Major Ian MacBean, who introduced him to “The Great Game,” the geopolitical tug-of-war between China, Japan, and Britain. Hubbard also learned of the trade in stolen Chinese treasures, and was exposed to the secret criminal society known as The Red Dragon—inspiring this story of the same name. He has captured a singular time in this storied land.

Review:

I fear I am beginning to repeat myself with these reviews. The Red Dragon is now the ninth L. Ron Hubbard pulp fiction story that I have listened to and reviewed. That’s a lot. I think that I have now read/listened to more of his stories than any other author. It’s easy to do when the Audio CD’s are easy listens with their multi-cast performances.

I love listening to old time radio shows. It’s perhaps one of the more ‘strange’ things I’m into (read: I’m not strange, just nerdy to varying levels of eccentricity). These audio CDs by Galaxy Audio are awesome to listen to while stuck in traffic with their sound effects and fun voice acting. I can never really find any fault in their production. They are short; really most of these stories are really more like short stories/novellas than a novel, but that’s fine. It’s easier to keep up, at least it should be.

My problem with The Red Dragon was that I did not listen to it nonstop. (I prefer to place blame on myself, but I think that there is indeed something a little off with this story.) I had a hard time understanding what was actually going on with the story. There were a few more political intricacies and action details that were lost on me. I don’t think that I really understood enough to get the full impact of it. That said, the ending made me smile and sigh and so I clearly liked it enough.

Like I say with all of these reviews, if you don’t like those elements that are typical with early to mid-twentieth century pulp fiction, you won’t like these stories. Yes, the man comes into rescue the damsel in distress, who of course falls immediately in love with her knight in shining armor. Yes, there are instances of racism/ignorance and the action can be a little ridiculous. But when read/listened to through the understanding of the time it was written in, I think that they are great examples of that genre.

My rating: 3/5