April 15, 2014

Russian History 101...at least Russian architecture...ecclesiastical anyway

It only took me a millennium but I finally finished up Devil's Acre: A Russian Novel. I blame it on the fact that I read the majority of it on my phone and the font was horrendously tiny (a fix to this is on its way). Now onto the review! The historical details of this story are grounded in fact but the characters and their storyline are distinctly fictitious. If you don't like novels that switch between time periods then you're not going to be a big fan of this book. I don't mind a bit of time jumping but I like the time periods to be easily distinguishable which wasn't always the case with this novel. I think it would have flowed better if the chapters flip flopped back and forth rather than within the chapters themselves. Also, the author utilized a writing technique that further confused things: he injected himself into the novel as a type of narrator about a quarter of the way through. Again, I don't mind this technique if it's unmistakable to the rest of the narrative. There was so much jumping around that I didn't really feel comfortable until about halfway through. Now as to the story itself, I found the plot interesting (I'm always interested in a bit of history/mystery) but I finished somewhat dissatisfied with the state of affairs. I was hoping for a bit more character resolution and it just never materialized. If you want to delve into the history of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour then this book is for you. If you want a story that sweeps you away on a cloud that you never want to emerge from well...I don't make any guarantees.

Because it's National Poetry Month I've decided to read two books of poetry. Both were originally written by Duo Duo and translated from Chinese to English by Gregory B. Lee. The first is titled The Boy Who Catches Wasps which is a collection of Duo Duo's poetry from across his career beginning after the massacre in Tiananmen Square. The second is Looking Out From Death which was the first collaboration between Lee and the poet and is the first collection of his poetry in English. I first became aware of Duo Duo when reading The Spy where selected passages were used at the beginning of several chapters. IT'S POETRY TIME!

April 5, 2014

It's the end of the world as we know it...

...and everything is not fine. Detective Henry (Hank to me and you) Palace has been forced into early retirement as the days tick closer and closer to the asteroid landing. Despite this hurdle, he is determined to help wherever he can so when an old family friend asks him to find her missing husband he doesn't hesitate. Of course, in these uncertain times it's no easy feat to find a missing man and the situation is not at all black and white. Hank is drawn further and further down a rabbit hold of criminality, conspiracy, and chicanery. As he gets closer to unraveling his case the world counts down the days until destruction and chaos erupts. If you're looking for a story filled with tension and mystery then you need look no further than Countdown City. The only downside is that the third novel in the series, World of Trouble, isn't due out until this summer. :-(

To comfort myself, I've started a new book entitled Devil's Acre: A Russian Novel by Jonathan Bastable which promises to take my mind off things. Set in Russia (are you surprised), the story is about a young man named Vadim who decides to solve the mystery of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour which is a taboo subject and anti-Soviet to boot. By embarking on this dangerous project, Vadim is putting himself and his new love at risk. Why was the Cathedral demolished? What happened to the building of the Palace of  Soviets which was to take its place? Why is it such a secret?

April 1, 2014

The Last Policeman Pt 1

As I mentioned in the last post, I am going to be reading the first two books in The Last Policeman series back-to-back. I've just finished the first book aptly titled The Last Policeman and I'm extraordinarily glad that I have the sequel in hand already as I'm bursting to know what's going to happen next with Detective Henry (or Hank if you like) Palace. The world is going to end in 6 months. This is a done deal. An asteroid is on its way and the impact is going to destroy civilization as we know it. In fact, it's already happening. People are killing themselves so that they don't have to face the inevitable destruction of the planet. In Concord, the suicide preference is death by hanging.  However, Detective Palace suspects that this newest death is in fact a murder and he's tasked with gathering the evidence to back up his claim while everyone else is just coasting by (or taking off to check things off of their Bucket List). The laws have changed, society is one step away from true chaos, an asteroid is hurtling through space with earth in its sights, and Hank just wants to keep doing his job.

Are you excited for Countdown City after that little taste? I AM!

March 27, 2014

Crossover done right!

At first, it might be difficult to conceive how two vastly different genres (especially two so well-known!) could merge so beautifully. However, as the author has shown it is not only possible but a BRILLIANT idea. As a big fan of the Star Wars franchise and its novelizations, I was blown away by how well the Bard's style was used to re-imagine this epic story. For a Shakespeare novice, it might be a little jarring at first but you get so caught up in the storyline that I don't think that will be a major issue. Star Wars newbies should probably start with the first in the series, William Shakespeare's Star Wars, in order to understand the cast of characters and storyline more fully. All in all, William Shakespeare's The Empire Striketh Back was fantastic and I HIGHLY anticipate William Shakespeare's The Jedi Doth Return due out this summer!

I seem to be caught in an endless loop of either starting a series in the middle and/or having to wait for the last of the series to come out. I want to break that cycle but unfortunately that time is not yet upon us. I'm going to be reading two books by Ben H. Winters back to back (I hope): The Last Policeman and Countdown City. These books follow a detective by the name of Hank Palace who seems to be the only policeman still interested in upholding the letter of the law and this is because the world is on the verge of ending. Seriously there's only a few months left before an asteroid destroys all life as we know it. It's no wonder that he's the only one still on the job. Hard questions come up in light of the impending doom of the planet which only causes the plot to thicken further. DUN DUN DUN

March 25, 2014

Proving that cats are indeed hilarious

If you want a book that is BURSTING at the seams with funny then you're in luck because How to Make Your Cat an Internet Celebrity is just the book for you. This book is an entrepreneur's dream how-to manual giving step-by-step instructions on how to utilize the gifts of that pesky cat that up until now only slept and destroyed villainous toilet paper rolls. Instead of bemoaning the fact that your cat seems to think her water bowl is possessed by a demon catch her (on tape!) giving it distrustful looks before knocking it flying with a paw. If your cat looks fetching in an ascot (meow!) make sure to grab footage of him strutting his stuff while looking extraordinarily stylish. This book has every tip for making a mint by harnessing the hidden talents of the feline in your life. (Also, the pictures and captions are FANTASTIC.)

Is it any wonder that I don't want the laughter to stop here? Next up is William Shakespeare's The Empire Striketh Back by Ian Doescher. Now I know what you're thinking: Why aren't you starting with the first in the series? Well, that's because...I have no good reason. However, this is the way it's happened to work out and if I enjoy it (signs point to yes) I'll be taking a look at William Shakespeare's Star Wars. Merging two vastly popular worlds is an incredibly clever and possibly risky endeavor especially these two which seem completely incongruous. Setup as if it's just another Shakespearean play except with a cast of characters sci-fi aficionados are more than familiar with, The Empire Striketh Back, has high hopes for becoming a cult phenomenon. We shall see...

March 23, 2014

Read with an eye on the past

It's important to remember the time period that a book was written in when delving into a work of classical literature. For example, The Spy came out in 1821 when American novelists were still focused on telling stories about their brethren over the pond. It was quite revolutionary (pun sooo intended) to focus a story on American soil. The story is set during the American Revolution and opens at the end of 1780. Slavery clearly still practiced and attitudes about the slaves themselves were not altogether complimentary. If you go into a work of classic literature without remembering the context of the story itself then you are doomed to find the entire body of work unpalatable. With that being said, I must say I really enjoyed The Spy. True to the style of the time there was a lot of focus on unimportant details which made a majority of the tale drag on somewhat. I felt that it didn't really pick up steam (or grab my interest) until about 3/4 of the way through. There are two fantastic characters, however, which kept me turning those pages: Captain John Lawton (of the Continental Army who is fierce, brave, and impetuous) and Harvey Birch (the spy himself who is always full of wit and intensity). These two indomitable spirits are what make this story a classic piece of American literature.

For those of you who know me outside of this blog you'll know that I have a cat. A very fat cat who has a personality as big (or bigger than) her rotund middle. So clearly the next book on my list was made for me in mind. It's How to Make Your Cat an Internet Celebrity: A Guide to Financial Freedom by Patricia Carlin with photography by Dustin Fenstermacher. I think the main premise of the book can be summed up by this sentence from the introduction: No financial opportunity will give you a greater return on investment than your cat. Flipping through the pages of the book already has me giggling as the author has paired photographs (and graphs) with semi-serious marketing strategies for raking in millions by using a cat's innate star potential. I'll read and if you don't hear from me it's because Zuzu has made me a kazillionaire.

March 11, 2014

I was NOT disappointed

Hollow City came, saw, and conquered. The only complaint that I have is that because I'm reading a series in progress I have to wait an unspecified amount of time for the next book in the series. That's the only fault I found with this delightful sequel. Just as in the first novel, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, Riggs expertly wove in photographs to tell a seamless story full of mystery, adventure, and friendship. Yes, these children have extraordinary abilities. Yes, they're being chased by creatures that are scarier than any monster we imagine might be under our bed. Yes, this is a book you need to go out and read.

With that case closed, I picked up The Spy: A Tale of the Neutral Ground by James Fenimore Cooper (the author of The Last of the Mohicans which is another fabulous read). This story focuses on the time period of the American Revolution and is at once an adventure and a romance. The main hero is a tragic yet admirable man named Harvey Birch who the reader follows through a story which bounces back and forth between American/Continental and British lines. For those of you who have read any of Cooper's previous works you will recognize that this style is his forte. Luckily, the copy that I have has the added benefit of being gorgeously illustrated so I'm a little freakishly excited jazzed to get started on it. I can't wait to update you all!!

I hope that you're not letting Daylight Savings Time win and you're keeping those pages turning, dear readers!!