Review – Advent

AdventGavin Stokes is an awkward teenager. In fact, he’s always been awkward. He talks to people who aren’t there, see things that aren’t there, and has parents that want him to pretend everything that happens to him, doesn’t. When the opportunity comes to visit his aunt in the country, the only person he ever thought understood him, he jumps at the chance. One strange things after another happens to him and he starts to think that maybe he isn’t so awkward after all and there are a lot of things in this world that can’t be explained.

I don’t know what to make of this book. On one hand, I really liked it. On an entirely different hand, I didn’t really think much of it. Sadly, I’m having trouble pinpointing why this is so. Here’s the thing, the story has a bit of a time slip thing going on. So, when you’re not in the present watching a teenager make a total mess of things, you’re back in the 1500s with a magician who is also making a mess of things. I liked both stories. Each had their strong points. It was when the stories merged that I had trouble. Here’s the thing — the two timelines fit well together, character and plot wise. But I didn’t really care for them meshing. Does that make sense? Ignore me if it doesn’t, I won’t be offended.

One of the reasons I put this book on my list was because I knew it had a few Arthurian legend references and as we all know, (I’ve repeated it often enough) I’ll read anything that has Arthurian elements. That aspect of this book kept me reading and I liked the rather subtle way in which it was introduced. Although, I didn’t like when Gavin’s name went from Gavin to Gawain. It annoys me when characters change names halfway through a book. It was necessary and certainly made sense within the context of the story but it just doesn’t work me. I’m all for people (re: characters) finding themselves but, again, annoying for me. You may love it. Again, ignore me if needed.

The good thing and why this book is worth a try. It’s a book about magic! The magic follows traditional rules, there’s nothing wrong with that, I’m just pointing it out. And I liked that it was dark and sinister, the way I think magic should be. The way the magic is tangled throughout the centuries is great too. The estate, Pendura, in Cornwall that Gavin retreats to where his aunt is living, is an interesting place as well. It’s almost suspended in time and home to creatures that are only known to exist in the imagination.

Advent is the first book in a trilogy, and according to the author’s website, the second book, Anarchy, it will be out in September in the US. After writing this review, I think I might have talked myself into looking at the second book after all.

Advent

By James Treadwell

Emily Bestler Books/ATRIA

ISBN: 9781451661668

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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

Review – The House of the Vampire

The House of the VampireI’ve been over the vampire thing for a bit but every once in awhile an old school one finds me and I can’t help but read it. While looking on the Gutenberg Project for some horror recently, I found this one. Let me tell you, there’s nothing like a Victorian, Gothic, psychic vampire.

Reginald Clarke is a man everyone loves. He’s talented in every way and people crave his company. Artists flock to him and he takes in writers, musicians, and painters to his home. But something happens to all these talented people — they soon leave him with nothing, not a trace of the talent they arrived with. A young writer staying with Reginald, and for all purposes, under his spell, figures it out and tries to get out from under Reginald’s enchantment.

The House of the Vampire is good and creepy and the type of vampire story I want more of. There’s no blood and certainly no sparkling going on here. Let’s all take a moment to be thankful for that. It’s an interesting concept, a psychic vampire, and frankly one that’s more terrifying, in some ways, than an actual blood sucking vampire. This is someone stealing who and what you are. Taking it for himself and using it to his advantage until there’s nothing left of you. You are a shell of a human being with nothing to give or take from anyone. Think about that.

If Wikipedia is correct, this short story was written in 1907 but it feels younger than its 100 + years.

The House of the Vampire

By George Sylvester Viereck

Gutenberg Project Ebook

 

Review – The Hollow Hills

The Hollow HillsThis is the second book in Mary Stewart’s Arthurian legend series following The Crystal Cave. Some spoilers may apply.

Arthur is about to be born and Merlin is called on by Igraine and Uther to keep him safe, which he agrees to do until the time is right for the world to know of the new High King who will unite the land of Britain. Keeping a small child safe and well-hidden is not an easy task in a country fighting over land. When the time to reveal Arthur comes, Merlin is left in awe of the gods and Arthur as the new High King.

I love Arthurian legend and I liked The Crystal Cave very much. I’ve read only a few stories told with Merlin as the narrator and that was certainly a reason for picking up the series. However, this second book was extremely slow reading for me. At one point, I considered scrapping it and moving on but decided to keep going. I was rewarded in the end but there were way too many info dumps to get to that point. Stewart takes this story slow telling you everything about Merlin and repeating often told tales more than once. Yes, Merlin is the one telling you these things so he can explain how wrong it is or how valuable the tale is for the ages but, I don’t want all that. Maybe it’s because I’ve read so many Arthurian based books that I get bored with the back story sometimes, but I don’t think that was the case here. Frankly, the first part of the book was just boring. Merlin is roaming around making sure no one knows about Arthur but it’s boring with him meandering around. When he finally settles down, and meets Arthur, it does get more interesting.

Also, I wanted more of the magic and there isn’t much of that here. It’s not necessarily a bad thing as I don’t usually want magic in these tales but honestly, I just wanted something, anything other than what I had here. It was slow moving, meandered just as badly as Merlin rambling about the countryside, and was just boring in parts. Yes, I know I already said that but if Merlin can do it, so can I.
Here’s the deal I made with myself about this series. I have the third book in my house. I will read it and if it gets better, I’ll turn to the library for the rest. If it bores more, the series is done but I can say I gave it a good try. My quest to read Arthurian legend has not come to an end and I’m hoping Stewart’s third book makes up for it.

Did you read this? Thoughts? If you liked it, I want to hear why. My opinion is not the last. Also, here’s my review of The Crystal Cave. As you can see, I loved the first book.

The Hollow Hills

By Mary Stewart

William Morrow & Company

Book Club Edition

 

Review – The Wise Man’s Fear

The Wise Man's FearRound two at writing this review… Obviously, round one was not a success.

First, warning time. This is the sequel to Rothfuss’s The Name of the Wind (review here) and while I will do my best to avoid spoilers, I will tell you upfront that it might still happen so either stop reading or go on. Your choice.

We are back with Kvothe, Baste, and Chronicler sitting at a table at The Waystone Inn discussing, or rather, Chronicler is listening and writing down, Kvothe’s life story. While the first day spent with Chronicler focused on his life at the university, on day two, Kvothe takes his story outside the world of scholarly learning and into the actual world — a place he did his best to avoid and no one can blame him. As we learned on day one, Kvothe was orphaned at a young age and managed to stay alive with little help. He was accepted at the university with almost no prior training. We come to learn that he is an extremely gifted individual, someone to be admired, and we soon find out on day two of his storytelling, one to also fear. Letting both Baste and Chronicler in, he talks of his love interest, Denna, a relationship he blunders beyond words time and time again. Eventually, he takes a position in Severen with the Maer Alveron (King of Vint) in which he agrees to help do some matchmaking. It’s during this trip that he meets a mysterious Adem warrior, and after a slight debacle, ends up studying the Adem’s warrior philosophy. After his time in Ademre, and a few more successes and debacles, he returns to the university, a place he can’t seem to do without, with the promise of tuition paid. Sadly, even after all the information Kvothe shares, we’re still left to wonder. And it’s a great thing.

There’s a reason the description is so long and that reason is that I don’t know what to say about this book. What I want to do is tell you everything but I said I wouldn’t so I had to stop. Truthfully, it’s one of those books that when you finally get around to picking it up that you can’t, and don’t want, to put it down. It’s also a huge book — mine counted in at 1,000 pages exactly — so it’s also a commitment.

Kvothe is telling this story to Chronicler and the whole time it feels as though he’s speaking directly to the reader. It’s intimately told like you’re in on some sort of secret. In another post where I rambled on about long books, I mentioned this one because I had just finished it, and mentioned that I wondered how editors let long books like this one through without major editing. And plagiarizing myself, I say again, Rothfuss is a talented writer and the way he tells this story cannot be told any other way. Well, I imagine it could but the impact wouldn’t be the same. Epic. Yes, it is. Meandering. Yes, that too. Engrossing. Most definitely yes.

This is not a book to be trifled with. By that I mean you won’t be able to simply put it down and pick it up at random. You’ll want to continue reading it, and when it’s over, you’ll want to it to continue. You’ll want Rothfuss to write faster but you won’t want to pester him about it because you want the last book in this trilogy to be just as good as the first two. Obviously, these things can’t be rushed. They shouldn’t be rushed. A story like this one doesn’t appear overnight. It’s a labor and I’m willing to wait that out.

The Wise Man’s Fear – The Kingkiller Chronicle: Day Two
By Patrick Rothfuss

Daw Books, Inc.

 

More Mini Reviews

More mini reviews. I’m beginning to like these short takes. Be warned, you might see more.  This time, a short story about a boy and a book about the Loch Ness monster. Enjoy.

The Year of the Big ThawYear of the Big Thaw

By Marion Zimmer Bradley

A Gutenberg Project Ebook

Superman. That’s what I thought about as soon as I finished this short story. A boy is found and raised by a caring farmer and his wife who tell no one about the boy’s appearance and let everyone guess as to where he came from and how he came to live with them.

This is an interesting little story and if you’re a fan of Marion Zimmer Bradley, I suggest giving this very brief story a try; it’s only about 25 pages. I always forget that she wrote more than fantasy along the lines of The Mists of Avalon, that being my favorite of her works. But I know she’s written a lot of science fiction, most of which I haven’t touched. I should read more of her science fiction and thanks to the Gutenberg Project, where I found this little beauty, I’m going to make that happen.

If you’ve read some of Zimmer Bradley’s science fiction, suggestions on where I should start?

 

The LochThe Loch

By Steve Alten

Tsunami Books

ISBN: 0976165902

Zachery Wallace is a marine biologist who is called back to Scotland to help out his father who has been arrested for murder. How does a marine biologist help an absentee father who is accused of murder? By proving the Loch Ness Monster exists, of course. Yep, Angus, Zachery’s father, claims a monster ate the man he’s accused of killing and Zachery needs to get over his fear of the water, a great trait in a marine biologist, and anger directed at his father, to prove his innocence.

I read this book in October 2012 as part of my regular creepy Halloween reading. It fit the bill. It wasn’t great. It wasn’t bad. It was silly and entertaining. I always enjoy anything Loch Ness related so that was a plus. And it was fun. The story is farfetched but I read it in one afternoon curled up on my couch so I don’t have much of anything bad to say about it but I’m writing this review months later and not much of the story remained with me either. If you like stories like this, I say go for it. Spend a weekend and entertain yourself with a story of the Loch Ness monster, if you like that sort of thing.

Review – The Thirty-Nine Steps

The Thirty-Nine StepsSometimes, I like to go old school with my books. This book was one of those occasions. I should start off by telling you that The Thirty-Nine Steps is a serial story that appeared in a magazine in and around 1915 or so. I found it interesting for that reason; the fact that it was an old school spy thriller took it over the top though. However, there’s a reason for my telling you this up-front but the valuable lesson learned will be shared in a moment.

Richard Hannay is an ordinary man trying to settle into his London home after years away in South Africa when a neighbor, Franklin Scudder, corners him and tells him that he’s uncovered a German plot to assassinate a Greek Premier and he needs help hiding out. Soon after agreeing to hide Scudder, Hannay comes home to find him dead. From then on, Hannay is running from everyone. He can’t go to the police, he doesn’t know who is really chasing him, and he doesn’t know if any of it is real or not. Running is his one and only option.

Lesson learned: if you are going to read a serialized story, read it that way. Each chapter is a complete story, in a way. There’s a distinct beginning, middle, and end. Yes, you can say that of most novels but it’s especially true in this case since each chapter was run by itself it needed to reintroduce the characters and story in subtle ways. When I tried to read this book all in one sitting, it didn’t work. I started to wonder if I would even finish it because it wasn’t working for me. So, I started and ended each chapter at lunch. And it clicked! The book started working and I was in love with it. It became exciting to see how Hannay was going to get out of his predicament and who he would meet up with next. It was my lunch reading and I couldn’t wait for it.

It’s a man on the run thriller, one the first of its kind from what I remember reading about this story. The story itself is a great distraction too. I got caught up and was happy to see things work out in some cases or be left wondering about the next set up.

Warning: if you’re going to read this, go one chapter at a time and let the story play out. It’s so much better that way. And try it you should. You can get it from The Gutenberg Project for free so go and do that.

The Thirty-Nine Steps
By John Buchan

A Gutenberg Project Ebook