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!!

March 6, 2014

So here's my take on #zombieI loved the concept for this story. A zombie invasion that began because a computer hacker unleashed a subroutine through every available avenue on the Internet? BRILLIANT. As someone who uses social media on a daily basis (who doesn't these days?), it was a chilling thought that by clicking on what first appears as an innocuous link on Twitter I could become a mindless destroyer of humanity. However, it didn't hold my attention as I had hoped it would. Line has a tendency to drift and focus on minutiae that has no bearing on the tale. Re-telling of information previously stated is also another issue. Also, I didn't really feel connected to the protagonist, Ven. I didn't especially care if she made it through the apocalypse or not. Your main character needs to at least be somewhat relatable/likeable (at least I think so) to keep the interest of the reader. If I hadn't felt obligated to review I probably would have given up despite the fascination of the story's concept. In conclusion: great concept and some really great wit but could stand a bit of tightening up on storyline and characterization.

Next up is Hollow City by Ransom Riggs (yay signed copy!). This is the sequel to Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children which if you'll remember I reviewed this back in August. SPOILERS AHEAD IF YOU HAVEN'T READ THE FIRST IN THIS SERIES. The story continues the journey of the main character Jacob and his peculiar friends as they try to escape from the wights and hollowgast who are after Miss Peregrine (who is stuck in bird form). The children are stuck in Jacob's past which means it's WWII making things even more complicated and dangerous. There only hope is to find another loop and an ymbryne (like Miss Peregrine) who can protect them and get Miss Peregrine back to human form. I'm only on Chapter 2 and I'm riveted. This guy is seriously a talented writer. I can't wait to see what kind of a journey this book takes me on.

March 5, 2014

Update: I never received That Hideous Strength. I'm trying to find a copy of it now. :-(

The Rubber Band follows a young woman on a quest to solve a mystery and fulfill a promise owed to her father (recently deceased). Of course, nothing is every simple in a Nero Wolfe mystery so from the beginning there is murder, intrigue, and suspicion on all sides. Wolfe (and Archie!) are at their best in this novel and the story culminates in a shocking ending that left me with my mouth agape in wonderment.

The Red Box started out in the style of a whodunit except where the suspects were numerous but the motive was unknown. As the story progresses, the mystery mounts around a core group of people (a family in fact) and Wolfe is forced to switch clients (unheard of for him) as the cast of characters is whittled down by murder. You can feel the mounting frustration with each turn of the page as Archie is left out of the loop (nothing new there really) and the lack of evidence takes a toll on the master detective.

Honestly, if you enjoy a riveting mystery novel then either (or both) will sate your appetite.

As you know, I occasionally do early review work for publishers and authors. My next title, #zombie, falls under that heading. Written by Al K. Line, the story follows two hackers, an infant, and an overweight dog as they navigate a new world overrun by zombies. The twist is that Ven (the pre-imminent hacker extraordinaire) is the CAUSE of the zombie catastrophe. Line has come up with a unique scenario of how a zombie apocalypse could begin. What if it all started with a computer hack that perpetuated itself through links on Facebook, hashtags on Twitter, and ads on YouTube? Could it be stopped? How could you avoid becoming infected?