Friday, November 24, 2017

REVIEW: Cruel Beauty

Cruel Beauty
Author: Rosamund Hodge

Beauty and the Beast is by far my favorite fairy tale. I've read several re-tellings of the classic tale, and Cruel Beauty is one of the best I've read. The story is a bit dark....but beautiful at the same time.

All her life, Nyx has been prepared to give her life to save her people. Their land has been imprisoned outside of the world for years by an evil demon being, The Gentle Lord. Because her father made a pact with the demon, Nyx will be his wife. For years she has been training, gaining the knowledge she needs to kill the Gentle Lord and save her people. She is prepared to hate him....to kill him...to die for her duty, until she actually meets him. Ignifex is beautiful, and strangely compelling. Nyx never expected to love her husband. She's faced with a horrible choice.....love her husband and not save her people, or betray her love and fulfill her duty.

I loved this book! The descriptions of Ignifex's strange house are beautiful. The slow build of the relationship between Ignifex and Nyx definity fits the Beauty and the Beast theme, with a bit more darkness and evil than the classic story.

I was a bit disappointed with events leading up to the ending. Nyx makes some decisions that I had a hard time reading. I wanted to hop into the book, grab her and yell NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. But odds are she wouldn't have listened to me anyway. :) The ending was satisfactory, so I can live with a few bad decisions by the main character. In her place, I think I would have been just as torn, confused and conflicted.

All in all, a great new spin on an old tale. I am definitely going to read more by Rosamund Hodge. I like her writing style and storytelling! There is a novella, Gilded Ashes, set in the same universe. The novella is a re-telling of Cinderella. :)

The cover art work is phenomenal!!

For more information on the author and her books, check out her website: http://www.rosamundhodge.net/

Thursday, November 23, 2017

REVIEW: NOS4A2

NOS4A2
Author: Joe Hill

A few days ago, I was scrolling through updates on my Goodreads feed while sitting in my car in the middle school parking lot waiting for my son. The front cover for this book by Joe Hill caught my eye immediately.....a bloody license plate with one of the most clever personalized plates I've ever seen. NOS4A2 - Nosferatu. Oh yeah.....I have to read this book! Immediately! It is awesome at times how a smartphone can give instant gratification. I had the audiobook checked out from my local library and downloaded in less than a minute.

Instant. Total. Gratification. Horrifying gratification. Best horror audiobook I've listened to in quite awhile.

Not only did the story instantly have my attention....but the narrator of the audio book is Kate Mulgrew (she played Captain Janeway on Voyager). I knew right away that I would not be wasting almost 20 hours of my life listening to Mulgrew read this tale to me. :) As a narrator, Mulgrew is superb. I have partial hearing loss and at times female narrators can be difficult for me to understand. But Mulgrew's voice is a bit lower than most women's voices, so I had no problems whatsoever. It's not just that though.....her performance is excellent! The voices she does for the characters....the expressiveness.....just PERFECT!!! I will definitely be looking for other audiobooks she has narrated.

The story itself is incredibly creative and viciously horrifying. Charles Manx. Murderer. Sadist. Kidnapper. He lures children into his Rolls Royce Wraith, a magical car that takes the kiddies to Christmasland. In Christmasland, it's always snowing....bright, fluffy holiday snow. The kind Bing Crosby sang about. Holiday music is always playing and kiddos can have all the candy, popcorn, cotton candy and goodies that they want. But....they can never leave. And they really aren't children anymore. While Manx doesn't kill or molest the children, he loves to torture, kill and otherwise completely ruin the day for adults. Or he has his murderous lackey do it for him.  There are a few other people who can travel into this other dimension. They all have something that allows them to enter....an object that catapults them from the real world into Manx's horrible other dimension. For Victoria McQueen it's her bicycle. As a child she discovered she could ride across a nonexistent bridge and find lost things.....but she learned there was much more to that other place than just finding things. It cost her dearly. Later in life she tells herself that she was crazy, mentally ill, that none of it ever happened. But it did. Years later she learns it was all real......and Manx is much, much more than just a murderer who drives a magic Wraith to Christmasland.

Listening to this book just before Thanksgiving was perfect timing. I don't think I will be able to listen to carols or look at holiday decorations this year without thinking about Charles Manx and his sleek Rolls Royce. And the horrors of Christmasland.

This book had great suspense, real horrors and moved along at a nice pace. The audiobook is 20 hours long, so it took me 2 weeks to finish it.....totally worth the time! I definitely recommend it for anyone who likes a bloody dose of holiday horror!

Happy Holidays! If you see a Rolls Royce Wraith driving slowly through your neighborhood this holiday season.....bring the kiddos inside and lock the door! :)

For more information about the author and his other books (which I plan to read, and hope that they are just as grisly and demented as this one!), check out Joe Hill's website: https://www.joehillfiction.com/

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

REVIEW: The Aliance

The Alliance
Author: Jolina Petersheim

Leora Ebersole lives in an Old Order Mennonite Community in Montana. Both of her parents are gone so she is responsible for her younger brother and sister. Life suddenly changes for Leora, the entire community and thousands of other people when an EMP bomb takes out all technology. Anything with computer components instantly stops working -- cell phones, newer vehicles, airplanes, appliances...most of modern technology. Poof! All gone in an instant. A pilot, Moses Hughes, crashes near their community but survives. Hughes and other Englishers who were visiting the Mennonite community join with the community to protect its residents, food supplies and buildings from the hordes of survivors they all know will be coming soon. Thousands of people will be streaming out of cities, looking for food and shelter, desperate to survive. Can the Mennonite Community stay true to its Christian beliefs of non-violence and kindness in the midst of a large-scale disaster?

I'm on a bit of a disaster story kick at the moment. This book sounded interesting, and I wasn't disappointed. It's definitely Christian fiction, but it's not preachy or overdone. The story really brought out the fact that everyone would be effected by a disaster that nullifies technology, even communities that shun modern conveniences. The Mennonites have to deal with dwindling food supplies, waste disposal, clean water, and safety just like everyone else. They have to revert to old ways of farming, building and cooking, and bend their beliefs a bit to protect themselves from violent gangs, thieves and hordes of desperate survivors.

I liked how the characters are thrown together with no warning and have to learn to work together, despite very different views. They learn to compromise for the good of the entire group.

There is a second book in this series, The Divide. I can't wait to read it so I can find out what happens next!

To find out more about the author, check out her website: http://www.jolinapetersheim.com/


Tuesday, November 21, 2017

REVIEW: The Complete Sookie Stackhouse Stories

The Complete Sookie Stackhouse Stories
Author: Charlaine Harris

I am usually disappointed when my favorite books are adapted for television or movies. Sookie Stackhouse was a favorite character of mine before HBO started their seven seasons of True Blood. As usual, the film version bore very little resemblance to the books. The first season was pretty close.....but it veered completely off course after that. In my mind, the books and the show are two completely different stories. HBO changed major plot points, added characters, and left out major portions of the books. And unfortunately most of the things they left out, or changed substantially, were my favorite parts of the series. Not that I didn't enjoy True Blood....I did. I was just disappointed they didn't follow the books. Not surprised. Just disapppointed. Now that the show is over, I want to revisit this entire series and put Sookie, her friends, and Bon Temps back into my mind the way Charlaine Harris created them.

While she was writing the series, Harris published several short stories set in Sookie's world. They added some nice side stories to the series, and were nestled into sweet themed anthology collections alongside stories by other authors I love like Jim Butcher and Rachel Caine. It's a bit difficult to go back and read all the stories since they were originally published in several different books. Then I saw a blurb for this new book -- yay!! All of the Sookie short stories collected in one book!

For anyone who wants to read the entire series in chronological order, the Southern Vampire series wiki page has a list that includes both the books and the short stories: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Southern_Vampire_Mysteries

For those who watched the HBO show but haven't read the books -- I highly recommend reading this series, with these additional stories. There are 13 books in the series, written from 2001 - 2013. The books are SO much better than the television series! I highly recommend the Southern Vampire series to anyone who likes supernatural, urban fantasy. Sookie Stackhouse is a waitress in Bon Temps, LA. She tends to keep to herself because she can hear other people's thoughts. Her abilities tend to make people think she's strange. She's always wanted to meet a vampire ever since they came "out of the coffin," revealing their existence to the world. One night she meets Bill Compton....a vampire who has moved into his old family home in Bon Temps. Her life will never be the same!

There are no new stories in this book....it's a re-release of 10 previously published short stories. Readers can enjoy them all in one place, rather than spread between several anthology books. For me, that's great because I have been waiting to reread the series until I had all of the short stories and I was a couple books short of having them all. I'm just a bit OCD like that when it's time to a revisit to a favorite series. And I can have my Sookie shelf in my bookcase....without having to add anthologies that include other stories.

This means I can move Sookie up to the top of my TBR and start re-reading!! :) I originally read this series with my husband. When new books arrived we used to argue over who got to read it first. Once we even played a boardgame to determine the winner. I lost, of course, and my husband got to gloat for an entire week about how he knew what was happening and I didn't. ha ha :) I ordered a copy of this book today....so soon I will have another fresh new Sookie book arriving on my doorstep to grace my keeper shelf. I'm sure once hubby sees me re-reading the first book he will want to join in and revisit Bon Temps too.

For more information on the author and her books, check out her website: http://charlaineharris.com/

**I voluntarily received an advanced readers copy of this book from Berkley Publishing via NetGalley. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.**






REVIEW: The Shade of the Moon

T he Shade of the Moon
Author: Susan Beth Pfeffer

I don't think I have read my way through a series of books this fast in years. I couldn't stop reading. The Last Survivors series is the story of what happens on Earth after a large scale disaster completely destroys modern society. Many people die from hunger, disease and violence. Those who are left fight for survival. In this last book of the series, the less noble facets of human nature start to come out. A new society begins to form split between the more essential and upper class enclave residents (called clavers) and the worker class grubs. Clavers are allowed more freedom, better food, and a safe place to live. Grubs reside outside the enclaves in violent, dangerous slums with no electricity and only enough food and necessities to survive. Only three of the survivors introduced in earlier books can live in the enclave...the rest have to become grubs. Surviving the new conditions brought about by the disaster is hard.....but surviving in the new social order turns out to be even harder.

This is my least favorite of the books in this series. Not because there is anything wrong with it....but because it was the most difficult to finish, possibly because it's very realistic. It is hard to admit that human nature is not to be understanding, kind and caring when it comes to survival. We can be a very cruel and violent species. Unfortunately, following a disaster of this type, a horrific society like what is depicted in this book might just be what happens. It isn't all doom and gloom though.....there is hope and there are always those who don't conform. It is those types of people who will keep their humanity in the aftermath of an extinction event. I did not like what happened psychologically to a couple of the main characters in this final book, but most likely because it was just a bit too real for me.

This series deals quite heavily with death, loss, rape, violence and prejudice. It's written for a YA audience so there isn't any graphic sex, violent scenes or language....but the subject matter is very dark and intense. I wouldn't recommend this series for children under 13. The books are well-written and the plot is thought provoking. I found myself wondering how my family would handle such a cataclysmic event. Would we survive? What would happen in the rural area we live in? How would we fare if all modern conveniences -- including medicine and the food supply -- was suddenly gone? Sobering thoughts.

I'm glad I read this series.....at the same time I'm glad I'm done reading. I think I need to read something happy, funny and much brighter now to clear my head of darkness. One good thought I take away from this series is that even when things seem darkest, there is always hope. And where there is hope, there is a chance for life.

Excellent series!

For more information on the author, check out her blog: http://susanbethpfeffer.blogspot.com/

REVIEW: The Massacre of Mankind

The Massacre of Mankind
Author: Stephen Baxter

I have to admit I was a bit hesitant to read a sequel to H.G. Wells classic The War of the Worlds. Usually I am left disappointed by continuations of classic stories that I love. Authors either try too hard to copy the writing style and feel of the earlier tale, or they don't try hard enough. In a majority of cases, sequels leave me feeling a mix of disappointment and annoyance. So when I received a lovely hardback copy of this new book by Stephen Baxter, I have to admit that the book sat on my desk for weeks because I had to build up the courage to read it. The book is high quality and the cover art is wonderful....so it looked quite nice on my desk. But an unread book is an adventure not taken....so I finally took a deep breath and started reading. Immediately I knew that Baxter was not going to disappoint me! The Massacre of Mankind is well-written and a fitting sequal to Wells' classic.

It has been 14 years since the last Martian invasion.....and they are back. Martian technology looted from the remnants of ships from the last invasion has been used to give humanity a huge tech boost. With one eye on the sky, humanity moves on, content that they can thwart any more threats from Mars. One man, Walter Jenkins, tries to caution people.....the Martians might have learned from their loss and become better prepared to fight for control of Earth. Turns out he's right -- the aliens return and attack again, with even more fire power and nastiness than they unleashed the first time.

This book is in an alternate timeline where the  Martian invasion and alien technology have an effect on history and world events. Wave after wave of Martians and colonization of our planet take H.G. Wells vision to an all new level.

Just a lovely and thrilling sequel to one of my favorite classic sci-fi stories!! Before this, I had only read a Doctor Who book by Baxter. I will definitely be checking out more of his books! I thoroughly enjoyed this story!

The cover art is superb as well!

For more information on the author and his books, check out his website: http://www.stephen-baxter.com/

**I voluntarily read a copy of this book from Blogging for Books. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**


Monday, November 20, 2017

REVIEW: This World We Live In

This World We Live In
Author: Susan Beth Pfeffer

In this 3rd book in the Last Survivors series, the two groups of survivors depicted in books 1 and 2 come together. Humanity faces possible extinction as natural disasters and climate changes hit Earth following an asteroid strike pushing the moon closer to the planet. It's been a year since the disaster. Very few people remain alive. This group of 10 survivors faces not only the daily fight for survival, but also their own emotions, weaknesses and fears. They must learn to live and work together to survive.

Although it is a bit preachy in places (in my opinion), this book is just as enjoyable as the first two in the series. Although the disaster premise is not scientifically valid, I find the concept of survival after a large scale planet wide disaster to be both thought provoking and horrific. I don't know how I would react to a complete, sudden change in life as I have always known it. I don't know if I would be strong enough, mentally or physically, to survive as nearly everyone around me dies of starvation, illness or injury. What would I be prepared to do to protect my children? I  liked how Pfeffer brought her characters together to form a sort of rag-tag family. The story unfolds in diary format, with the character Miranda writing about their daily challenges. There is a lot of emotion in this book, as the characters all try to live together, survive and deal with uncertainty and danger.

This series is written for a YA audience. Because of the serious, dark theme I wouldn't recommend it for kids under 13. There is no graphic violence, sex or cursing....but Pfeffer doesn't pull any punches with the dystopian theme. Death, starvation, suicide and other dark themes figure heavily into the plot. Pfeffer realistically depicts what it might be like to survive after society ends.

For more information on the author and her books, check out her blog: http://susanbethpfeffer.blogspot.com/