Review – World War Z

World War ZMy husband, who doesn’t read much fiction, bought World War Z one night as we were browsing our local bookstore. I’d heard about it, good things too, but I figured I was done with the zombie thing. A few weeks after said purchase, we find ourselves at the movies and on comes the preview of the movie version of World War Z, which looks awesome by the way. We get home and my husband goes looking for the book, and for the next two evenings, does nothing but read. For a man who doesn’t read fiction, he can’t get enough of it. Of course, I had to read it. And now that the movie is coming out, I’m finally getting around to my review. Here’s my take.

There’s a reason this book is subtitled an oral history of the zombie war. It’s exactly what it is. The author himself plays a part as the curator of the stories of individuals that have survived the zombie war. He travels the world speaking with people who have, in some way, large or small, made an impact in the war. The introduction of this book is critical to understand why these stories are being collected and told this way. You see, Brooks was an agent of the United Nations that helped to document the ten year war against the zombie outbreak, but when the final document is published, he realizes how much was left out. He plans to change that with this book.

I have to give it to the author — this was an incredibly effective way to make this fiction seem real. The individuals’ stories fake or not, are scary and totally believable. He pulls in religious factors, political factions, impact of political decisions, and the final result on not just humanity but the world as a whole. I have to say, bravo on that one. Brooks made a zombie story completely believable. The way he describes the spread of the plague — organ donation as one way — is brilliant and the political ramification in attempting to stop it are so detailed you can picture this happening in the world we live in.

OK, so I’ve gushed but I do have some little complaints. It began to feel repetitive and tedious to me. There’s a ton of military interviews and only so many descriptions of how to shoot a zombie in the head that I can take. But, it makes sense, he’s describing a war and I get that. I’m just not much for reading battle scenes, of which there are many here. Also, he interviews very few women. Jenny, over at Jenny’s Books, talk about this so I hand it over to her. Go read it.

I didn’t read The Zombie Survival Guide, which is Brooks’s first book. My sister, a zombie aficionado, did and when I told her I was reading this I’m pretty sure she starting salivating and wanted to get her hands on it.  I promised I’d send it as soon as I finished the review, which oddly, I wrote after only a few days which is totally not my style but anything for the sister.

So, the movie. Will I be seeing it? Probably. I have to say the preview looked damn good and if it’s anything like the book, I’ll probably not want to leave my house for a bit. Until I’m sure there aren’t any walking dead in my hallway. But, I know to aim for the head so I’m prepared.

World War Z

By Max Brooks
Crown Publishing Group
ISBN: 9780307346612

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Thoughts – The Mists of Avalon

This isn’t going to be regular review. Over the course of the seven weeks I spent reading The Mists of Avalon, I started writing down what I liked/didn’t like about this book and a few thoughts that I didn’t want to slip away. It may be a little disjointed but I’ll try to pull it back together at the end when I finish up this little experiment.

First, for those unfamiliar with this book, The Mists of Avalon is a re-telling of Arthurian legend from the perspective of the women. It closely follows with the generally known legend and all the characters are there. If you want a more detailed description, I give you this. Yes, it’s the lazy way but this is already a very long post.

Character-wise — I love the strong women. Igraine, the eventual wife of Uther Pendragon and the mother of King Arthur, is miserable and it’s hard to blame her. Especially when she finds out she’s really just a pawn for Viviane, her sister and priestess of Avalon, who has already once married her off to an older man and plans to marry her to the man who will be high king so she can bear him a son. Viviane is strong, not likeable, but admirable. She has strong convictions and even a few regrets especially for her family and the strains put on them by their fates. Morgaine, Igraine’s daughter by her first husband, the Duke of Cornwall, and to a certain extent, Viviane’s adopted daughter, becomes a priestess of Avalon. When she falls victim to Viviane’s fate machine, she runs when her life is essentially brought to ruins. Morgause, Igraine’s sister and Morgaine’s aunt, may be a harsh woman with designs on power his above her abilities, but give her credit, she knows what she wants and how to get it. Even if how she gets it is through sex but she’s not ashamed so why should we be.

Then there’s Gwenhwyfar, King Arthur’s wife. What a twit. Really. I couldn’t stand her and I have a very high tolerance for liking this character in most Arthurian re-tellings. Here, she’s a conniving woman who only wants a son and will go to any length to guilt and goad her husband into being a better Christian because she believes that a stronger more fanatical faith will bring that wish to fruition. She’s whiney, annoying, and honestly, not that smart. She doesn’t see the big picture and is so worried about supposed pagans and their evil that she can’t even see what she’s doing is tearing the country apart as her husband is trying to salvage it. As a side note: if you want to read a strong Gwenhwyfar, read Helen Hollick’s Arthurian re-telling — The Kingmaking, Pendragon’s Banner, and Shadow of the King. The Gwenhwyfar in that story is strong and unafraid of her fate and faces everything head on.

The men. Arthur is Arthur but he’s not so much the strong Arthur that I like so much. He’s more of a non-factor since this story is about the women but he’s the high king and has to be there. Lancelet. My god, just bang the girl and get it over with. I say this now because I couldn’t take it anymore. Unrequited love doesn’t sit well for me and there’s entirely too much of it here. Yet, it’s a big part of this story and it wouldn’t be this story without this little triangle. And when I say triangle I mean that in the threesome sort of way. Imagine at will.

Mordred, Morgaine and Arthur’s son, is a fascinating character. He was raised by Morgause and is full of the need for power but the difference is that he knows how to find it and yield it. Raised in Avalon, he can raise the power of the goddess and knows his way around courtly diversions and behavior. He is able to manipulate Arthur and gain his way into Gwenhwyfar’s heart all the while planning a way to gain the throne for himself. A character that at some moments is a playful child, a homesick man, a man in love, and a man loyal to his brothers, Mordred is a slight chameleon. You want to like him but in ways you just can’t. Morgaine seems to feel the same way about him and she’s his mother. What does that tell you?

Merlin is Merlin and very grandfatherly but doesn’t play the part I want him to in this book but, again, it’s not about him. Kevin the Bard, oh how I love his interactions with the twit. Kevin was disfigured in a childhood accident and Gwenhwyfar believes he’s the devil himself and actually blames him for a miscarriage at one point. He gets what he deserves in the end for his betrayals though but I did find him an interesting character in his thought process on the changing role of religion among the people and how old ways needed to change. Morgaine doesn’t agree with him and this becomes the cause of tension for these two and seeing them battle it out is interesting.

Morgaine. I need to talk more about her. Honestly, I adore her in this book and she’s not always a character I like. In some stories, she’s a horrific person willing to murder and seize power at every opportunity, in The Mists of Avalon, she mostly runs from her fate. She doesn’t actively seek power and even when she can use it to get what she wants, she doesn’t. Yes, some of her actions are harsh but she does have a degree of humanity about her that I like.

I still love the setting, the storytelling, and the tension. It’s a long book and nothing is rushed which also at times makes you wish something would happen. You have to be patient and wait for the fates to work it out though. Although, as I got down to the end, parts did feel slightly rushed but I think that was because I had become used to this world moving slowly and when events happen all in succession, it felt out of place but it also felt that it needed to come to an end so I was fine with it.

This isn’t my first time with this book and it won’t be my last. I discovered much about this book on this re-read and I’m sure I’ll discover more in successive reads. While there are many Arthurian legend books I adore, this is certainly high on the list. It’s a wonderful story full of amazing women. Even if you don’t care for Arthurian legend, read it for the women. They stand above.

Thoughts – The Mists of Avalon

By Marion Zimmer Bradley

DelRey

ISBN: 0345350499

4.5 stars

Review – In The Woods

Tana French is a new to me author. I’m sorry I waited so long to read her too. I kept seeing rave reviews of her books and now I know why. She deserves the praise.

In Dublin, Rob Ryan is a detective waiting for a case. He’s spent time and effort waiting for the perfect case that will make his career and when that one drops in his lap, it’s not at all what he wanted. In a small town outside of Dublin called Knocknaree, a 12 year old girl is found murdered at an archeological site. Her father is the leader of the group protesting the building of a roadway through the town and it leaves everyone wondering if the murder could be a warning to him to cease his fight. When that leads nowhere, Rob and his partner Cassie Maddox are forced to look elsewhere for answers. And all through the investigation Rob is trying to come to terms with his past. When he was a small child, he and two other friends went missing in the same woods that are now being searched for clues to the current murder. He wants his memories to return, in fact wills them to, but nothing useful comes of it and his life, the one he carefully planned down to his wardrobe, comes tumbling down around him.

There is so much going on in this book and in the end it doesn’t feel as if it’s enough. The details are fantastic and the way French introduces you to her characters — opening up slowly, peeling back layers — you see just how complicated and messed up they all are in this book. They’re all broken in some way and trying hard to make sure the lives of others are at the very least put back in place with answers to their questions. Rob and Cassie know they can’t fix others, and especially not themselves, but they try to cover every single thread that’s available to them even when it leads places they don’t want to go.

Honestly, while the murder that takes place is solved, and satisfactorily at that, with a suspect I didn’t see coming but should have once the story got going, what I wanted to know about was what happened to the kids twenty years ago in the woods of Knocknaree. There’s no answer and I was OK with that but still wanted to know because it was so tantalizing. It was too interesting to just let go and my mind kept making up scenarios. Rob does make attempts at remembering and those snippets only add more to the mystery and unwanted drama to his life. You know the questions won’t be answered although you do get enough detail to round out the story. I liked how the disappearance almost had a mythical reason to it but then again, what do the memories of a young boy really mean when the event that brought on the memories was a traumatic one?

I know this book isn’t necessarily a series but I do know if I pick up another Tana French book it will still be the same sort of setting but with some old and new characters. You know what, bring it on.

In The Woods

By Tana French

Penguin Books

ISBN: 9780143113492

4 stars

 

Review – The Master of Heathcrest Hall

The Master of Heathcrest Hall is the third book in the Magicians and Mrs. Quent series following The Magicians & Mrs. Quent and The House on Durrow Street. I’ll try to avoid spoilers but you’ve been warned. It’s a series afterall.

Ivy Quent is living a calm and happy life with her husband, Mr. Quent, and her sisters. Her husband’s star is rising and things are going very well for them personally. Suddenly, their calm life takes a turn, and Ivy, who has been successful with the help of her husband in hiding her magical abilities, begins to find the task difficult especially when questions are being raised by prominent members of society. Things in the city begin changing fast. War is imminent, spies crawl all over the city looking for people to turn in, and soldiers begin occupying the city waiting for it to come under siege. Lord Rafferty, a close friend of Ivy’s, is doing what he can behind the scenes as a member of Parliament but his efforts seem trivial compared to what he is up against. Eldyn Garritt, the illuminist, has turned spy and using his skills to help the realm. It’s only when Ivy, Lord Rafferty, and Eldyn come together does the realm stand a chance.

It took me a very long time to read this book. I think I may have waited too long in between book and found myself wondering about a few details here and there but it wasn’t anything major. My big problem was that I felt it just took long for things to happen. Flipping between Ivy, Lord Rafferty, and Eldyn, and seeing all of their stories and what they were going through was interesting but it took a long time for the three to come together. This wasn’t something specific to the third book but something with all three in the series for me.

The world building is interesting though and that was the reason I continued with the series. The magical parts are solid and the way it’s integrated it in the story makes it feel normal in the course of these characters’ lives. They just don’t discover they have these abilities all of a sudden, it grows and changes. I also enjoyed the Austen-esque feel of the series — the etiquette, the dress, the manners. Austen feel mixed with fantasy, well, yes please. It’s a yes with a but though. I’m glad I finished the series because I was interested to see where the story would go after book two, and I was satisfied with the ending. I didn’t lack for answers and didn’t think the story needed more. It was a story finished. And here’s the but part, it was a slow read for me. I’m qualifying this but statement with a for me because that’s the case. I’ve read reviews of this book that loved the pacing and the way the story drew out the lives of the characters. It didn’t work so much for me on that end.

This was an average read for me but it’s an interesting world, the magic is a likable element and feels very much a part of the world and not something apart from it. The characters are likable but I wish they had more opportunity to interact. Their lives don’t permit that to happen often, understandable part of the story actually but it would have been more interesting if they had. If you like fantasy with a hint of Austen-esque manners, give it a try and don’t let time lapse between reads. I think these books are meant to be read successively for full affect.

The Master of Heathcrest Hall

By Galen Beckett

Random House Publishing Group

ISBN: 9780345532480

3 stars

Review – Lady Susan

Lady Susan is told through letters, and through those letters, oh does Lady Susan ever get a dousing.

Lady Susan is a woman in need of a place to stay after deciding it was time for her to quit her current residence which of course was some else’s home. She finds herself a place with her in-laws, the Vernons. A recent widow looking for a new husband, she is willing and able to manipulate to get what she wants. She also needs a husband for her daughter, Fredericka, whom she describes as stubborn and unruly and who she talks badly about at every opportunity. She wants to marry off her daughter and be done with her and find herself a handsome, rich man to take care of her without the worry of an unwanted, and uncared for, daughter.

There are essentially seven characters in this book and in some way these people are all related or know each other intimately which makes the barbs being thrown all the more sharp. Yes, Lady Susan deserves every snide remark and sideways evil eye thrown her way but that, for me, is what is so fun about this book. Lady Susan goes around flirting with men, while keeping a married one on the hook, hoping to snag a good one along the way. She’s able to convince people of her virtues, and more than enough people describe her willingly as beautiful and smart. I think all the backbiting and hastily sent letters is wonderful though. Yes, you can say it’s slightly preachy on the morals side but the letters flying between family members is really entertaining.

This was an early unpublished work of Austen’s. I think I may have known that at some point but forgot it. It does have an unfinished feel about it and maybe an unedited feel as well. If you’ve read a lot of Austin, it’s easy to pick up on some of that but it was still good for me. It was included in my The Complete Works of Jane Austen which I’ve had on my Nook forever and love because when I’m feeling the need for Austen, it’s right there.

I have one book left to go and I will have officially read all of Austen’s books. It’s taken me longer than anticipated to complete this little challenge. As the number on the list of not read gets smaller, I get slower and now I’m down to one — Emma. I’ve tried to read Emma before and have never made it all the way through as she’s a character I really find annoying. After Lady Susan, I’m hoping I look at Emma as more the silly matchmaker and not the annoying, coddled child I think of her as. We shall see. We shall see.

Lady Susan from The Complete Works of Jane Austen

By Jane Austen

Douglas Editions

BN ID: 2940000816981

4 stars