Monday, December 23, 2013

Redshifted - Martian Stories.

Title/Author: Redshifted: Martian Stories.

Genre:  Sci-Fi.

Source:  An e-copy of this anthology was provided in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis:  Look for your sign as an astrologer casts a Martian colony's horoscope, the Roman god decideds war's not in his stars, and a tycoon finds his way back to Barsoom.  Cheer as a clockwork man takes his girl on the trip of a lifetime, a Martian bride refuses to miss her wedding and a Man's Best Friend turns out to be a giant roach.  Shadow a being who's "just here to help," and another who's just here to hurt.  Shiver as murderous antibodies attack an expedition, and a workfare crew struggles to dispose of hazardous junk from space.  And of course, get a good laugh as you peruse the Want Ads and check your Marsmai.  ~Product Description.   
My Thoughts:  I wasn't really intending to read Redshifted - Martian Stories because I already have so much to read, plus I don't really read Sci-Fi.  But I was curious so I scrolled down and the first page of the first story sucked me in.  And then...I kept reading.

Eurydice in Capricorn introduces the reader to a new colony on Mars and a woman who created "Mars Astrology."  How clever is that?  I've read about Astrology and taken a few classes and I feel the myths are creative and the way the author peppered in bits of the "Mars chart" throughout the story is brilliant.  The story is interesting and sad and made me feel anguish and hope at the same time.  What I like most is that I had no idea what was going to happen and I love that.  Many times I feel a reader can guess different scenarios, but the story is presented in such a way, I was almost tricked or led into thinking a certain way and could not predict what was coming. 

Make Carrots Not War is a funny ditty about the Greek Pantheon and how the God of War, Mars, deals with his unwanted role.  It's more telling than showing and kind of sums things up in history for him, but still a good read.

Color Blind on the Red Planet is another one I enjoyed.  I like the premise and what I really enjoyed, in my own macabre way, is the chilling death of one of the characters.

The Journal of Miss Emily Carlton is a sweet story about Emily, a young woman in a wheelchair who has the good fortune to meet Professor Bannister and his clockwork son, Edward.  It is an homage to Edward R. Burroughs and Jules Verne with a bit of steampunk thrown in.  I apologize for this spoiler, but I have to say, I loved the last line: "Let's go." I said and took my first step.  These two short sentences have so many layers.  While Emily leaves one life, she finds another.

The Canary and The Roach has very nice writing that include metaphors that are surprising in their originality.  The story introduced me to the concept of the last thoughts you want in your life.  Morbid but powerful, this piece is darkly beautiful.

"In the absense of choice, labels lose their necessity." ~Mr. Jed Eckert in The Canary and The Roach.

For Sale: One Red Planet is hysterical.  Hysterical and smart.  It starts out with an ad to sell Mars and continues into e-mail inquiries and threads that grow into frustrating, thought provoking and humorous correspondence and concepts.

Another funny story is MarsMail, a spoof of communication instructions set to your personality and buying needs.  Another gem is And A Pebble in her Shoe which creates a wedding tradition on Mars.  There are a few other stories to explore in this interesting and unique collection.  Admittedly I didn't adore every single one of them, but I truly enjoyed most of the stories in this anthology.

To Wrap it Up: Redshifted - Martian Stories is a fast and fun read.

The e-book price is a bargain for $2.99 and you can download it from Smashwords or Amazon.

I use Grammarly's plagiarism detector because I'm an original and I want to keep it that way!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Death Comes to Pemberly.

Title/Author: Death Comes to Pemberly by P.D. James.

Narrator: Rosalyn Landor

Genre:  Historical Fiction.

Publisher: Books on Tape.

Source:  Library.

Synopsis:  It is 1803, six years since Elizabeth and Darcy embarked on their life together at Pemberley, Darcy's magnificent estate. Their peaceful, orderly world seems almost unassailable. Elizabeth has found her footing as the chatelaine of the great house. They have two fine sons, Fitzwilliam and Charles. Elizabeth's sister Jane and her husband, Bingley, live nearby; her father visits often; there is optimistic talk about the prospects of marriage for Darcy's sister Georgiana. And preparations are under way for their much-anticipated annual autumn ball. 

Then, on the eve of the ball, the patrician idyll is shattered. A coach careens up the drive carrying Lydia, Elizabeth's disgraced sister, who with her husband, the very dubious Wickham, has been banned from Pemberley. She stumbles out of the carriage, hysterical, shrieking that Wickham has been murdered. With shocking suddenness, Pemberley is plunged into a frightening mystery.

My Thoughts:
This was a fun book to pass the time.  It was familiar, I knew who the characters were, their backstories and their personality traits.  I enjoyed learning more about the rules and day to day living during the Regency Period, such as how an estate is run, the roles of the staff and even some law.

However, I was hoping for a more Gothic feel, more shrouded secrets and more scares.  What I got was a murder mystery, a prime suspect and the rest felt like minute details.   I think the major downfall of this book for me was the long "telling" expositions, either about the law in this era, which at times was interesting if it didn't go on too long and also the characters.  I don't expect a book which is basically fanfiction to capture the sparkle of Elizabeth Bennet, but I was surprised and disappointed that there was nothing about her which made her the Lizzy I know and love.  Jane felt like an extremely minor character and Lydia, who could have made for some great drama, appeared even less.  The male characters also fell flat to me and could almost have been interchangeable.    Also, while I appreciated the touches of recalling the events of Pride and Prejudice, a lot of it felt forced. 

I don't want you to think I hated this book, because I didn't.  I just didn't love it either.  It kind of fell in the middle of the road for me.

Narration:  I think Rosalyn Landor did a very good job with the female characters, but I couldn't get behind the male characters. 

To Wrap it Up:  Although I had some issues with Death Comes to Pemberly, the story and revisiting Austen's world was entertaining.

Other Editions:

Monday, December 9, 2013


Title/Author: N0S4A2 by Joe Hill.

Illustrations: Gabriel Rodriguez.

Genre:  Horror. Fantasy.

Publisher: William Morrow.

Source:  Purchased.

Synopsis:  Victoria McQueen has a secret gift for finding things: a misplaced bracelet, a missing photograph, answers to unanswerable questions.    On her Raleigh Tuff Burner bike, she makes her way to a rickety covered bridge that, within moments, takesher wherever she needs to go, whether it's across Massachussetts or across the country.

Charles Talent Manx has a way with children. He likes to take them for rides in his 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith with the N0S4A2 vanity plate. With his old car, he can slip right out of the everyday world, and onto the hidden roads that transport them to an astonishing - and terrifying - playground of amusements he calls "Christmasland."

Then, one day, Vic goes looking for trouble - and finds Manx.  That was a lifetime ago.  Now Vic, the only kid to ever escape Manx's unmitigated evil, is all grown up and desperate to forget.  But Charlie Manx never stopped thinking about Victoria McQueen.  He's on the road again and he's picked up a new passenger: Vic's own son.

My Thoughts:  It's difficult putting into words how much I loved this novel.  I finished reading N0S4A2 early July and have been trying to write this post since then.  While I could discuss this story forever, to convey all my emotions and thoughts into one post has been an extremely daunting task.  I kind of just want everyone who loves Horror, who loves dark fantasy, who simply loves a good story, to read this.

Joe Hill's newest novel centers around Victoria, a very real, sympathetic and engaging character.  The actions of her parents shape her emotionally.  Her mother is distant and sometimes a little too hard on her.  Her father and mother fight a lot and they can't seem to keep their relationship together.  Also what shapes Vic is her unusual gift.  She can find things and uses her bicycle as the tool to travel to where anything is located.  Her mother's bracelet, her friend's toy and even "trouble."  With a capital T and in this case, it rymes with C.  As in Charlie Manx.   Unfortunately, this trouble follows her around for the rest of her life.

The thing is, Victoria is not the only one who has certain gifts.  Mr. Manx does too. Unfortunately, he is a very dangerous and evil man. An encounter with this evil rips her innocence away from her and  changes her even further.
"It sounded like delusion until you remembered that people made the imaginary real all the time: taking the music they heard in their head and recording it, seeing a house in their imagination and building it.  Fantasy was always only a reality waiting to be switched on."
Victoria breaks my heart.  Her self worth and self esteem are so low, she doesn't feel worthy of the love of her boyfriend and father of her child, Louis, nor of her wonderful son, Wayne.  She self sabotages her relationships and when it finally dawned on me why, I felt sad enough to cry.
"She felt she had never loved him the way he deserved - and that he had always loved her more than she deserved."
Another issue that she struggles with is that she has convinced herself that her gift was all in her imagination and even when eerie things continue to plague her, she chalks it up to insanity and self medicates with alcohol.   In spite of her being damaged, Vic is one of the bravest characters I have encountered.  When Vic's family is endangered she has to comes to terms with her gift and what's been happening in her life.  It seemed to me that she used her bikes to race away from herself.  To escape.  She was afraid she was insane and also afraid she was not because it is hard to say which would be worse.

I also love Louis.  He is so endearing and breaks my heart as well.  He is embarrassed because he is obese and a simple man with a tow truck business and couldn't keep his relationship with Vic together.  He feels he failed her, his son and himself.  It's odd when you think more of a fictional character than the character thinks of himself.  I rooted for Louis and wanted him to find the hero in himself.  I wanted him to become the man he wanted to be for Vic and for Wayne.

One summer as she tries to put her life and her relationship with Wayne back together, they find an old Triumph in their rented summer home and they make it their project to fix it.  I love the metaphor of this plot device.  As she rebuilds the bike, she rebuilds her relationship with her son and her own sense of worth.  A triumph.  Figuratively and literally.  Capital T.

Many readers don't associate beautiful writing with Horror, but N0S4A2 is filled with lyrical prose. The way that Vic's love for her child is described, the details of small things like buildings and seasons and the way light looks through windows.  Writing should help you see ordinary things in an extraordinary way and Hill accomplishes this.
...she loved the smell of the road: ashpalt baking and soft in high July, dirt roads wtih their dust-and-pollen perfume in June, country lanes spicy with the odor of crushed leaves in October, the sand-and-salt small of the highway, so like an estuary in February.
The style of this novel is exceptionally unique as well.  Some chapters end in the middle of a thought, and it made me feel as if I was jumping through space and time with the character.   It is jarring and a bit confusing but makes perfect sense.  It lends itself to the story and events.  I also loved the little drawings in the book -- the cartoons, the notes, the computer screen.  They add clarity to the story and helped bring me into the world further.

N0S4A2 contains the simple concept of Good versus Evil, yet the nuances of this tale, how the story branches out and the depth and complexity of the characters are epic.  It has everything - action, the supernatural, horror, love and a strong solid ending.

To Wrap it Up:  I not only have a new Joe Hill favorite, but a new favorite Horror novel.  N0S4A2 is tragic and heartwrenching, but a beautiful and deeply emotional saga.


Thursday, December 5, 2013

End of Year Books and Writing Insanity linkup.

I came across this on Twitter and thought it was so cute and fun.  So, I know people get sick of a lot of memes, but I couldn't resist this one.  If you'd like to join in, click on the button above.  There's a set of questions for authors/writers too!

1. What was your overall favourite book this year? (Yes. Pick one.)
N0S4A2 by Joe Hill. (Still working on my review!)

2. Favourite debut(s)? (Author must have been first published in 2013.)
I didn't read a debut author this year.  

3. Which books did you reread this year?
None.  I don't re-read books.  Maybe I will someday. 

4. Favourite cover(s) this year!

Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff. 

5. Worst cover(s)?
I'll take a pass on this one.  

6. What self-published books did you read this year?
None.  I don't really read self-published books. 

7. Which book(s) gave you a massive hangover?
Take a guess based on answers 8, 9 and 10!

8. Best standalone you read?
N0S4A2 by Joe Hill. 

9. Biggest book(s) you've read this year?
LOL, see above.  

10. Book(s) you followed the hype for and then loved!

11. Most disappointing book(s) you read this year?
I was pretty disappointed in The Accursed because it was my first Joyce Carol Oates book and I was expecting it to be easier to read (listen to) and spookier. 

12. Favourite leading-female character?
Vic from N0S4A2
Gin from Spider's Bite.

13. Favourite leading-male character?
Louis from N0S4A2
Nick from 3:59 by Gretchen McNeil.

14. Best romance(s)?
Gin and Donovan in Spider's Bite by Jennifer Estep. 
Jade and Donovan in The Dead and Buried by Kim Harrington.  (Hmmm, interesting, two Donovans.)

15. What book(s) hit the DNF list? (Did not finish.)
I feel bad, but I put down The Morganville Vampires.  However, I do intend to pick it up again at some point. 

16. What book(s) did you read out of your comfort-zone?I'm reading The Book Thief by Markus Zusak right now.  I haven't read a historical fiction in a long time and I usually avoid books about WWII and the plight of the victims involved. Ironically, after this one, I'll have read two set during WWII. The second being Life After Life by Kate Atkinson. 

17. Which author did you read the most from?
I didn't read any author more than once this year. 

18. Top 5 books you'd recommend from all the books you've read this year?
N0S4A2 by Joe Hill
Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff
Mister Slaughter by Robert McCammon.
Beautiful Sorrows by Mercedes Yardley.
Spider's Bite by Jennifer Estep.

19. How many books did you read this year all up?
Unfortunately only 32.  I know, it was a slow year. 

20. What's a book you're hugely excited for coming out in 2014?!
To be honest, I haven't been paying attention! And to be even more honest, I don't usually research what is coming out until I go to BEA and see what they have there. 

So what about you?  What are some of your favorite books, romances or characters you've encountered this past year?

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Keep Calm and Keep Reading.

We've all been through it.  Ruts, slumps...ennui.  There are probably hundreds of posts on the topic, even more tips of how to beat it.  We post about it, tweet about it, talk to our friends about it and sometimes take a hiatus or even quit blogging altogether.

I don't know what I'd call what I've been experiencing since the summer, but it does seem that I'm slowly emerging from whatever it is...was.  Rut...slump.  It wasn't that I didn't want to blog, I definitely did and still do.  And it wasn't that I didn't want to read, I never stopped.  I think a lot of it was that I just didn't want to formulate my thoughts and physically type them out.  I contemplated making vlogs instead, but ugh...there's a lot of work involved in that too.

My, slowdown started when I got back from New Orleans in June.  I was there for about 10 days and it was a wonderful trip that combined the World Horror Convention and then a vacation with a friend.  I really never want to return from NOLA, so when I got home, I decided I wanted to recreate a version of the beautiful gardens and plantlife that spill from balconies and are abundant in almost every corner.  In the past, my gardening and plant keeping efforts have resulted in dry, dusty, dead plants or hurt limbs (the plant's and my own).  But I wanted my NOLA garden dammit.  I spent a lot of time researching, planting and taking care of my new project.  The result was a lovely little garden that made me happy, but at the same time, I just slowed down blogging significantly, which left me feeling guilty.  It wasn't just the garden that was keeping me busy.  My husband and I would often take walks with our dog or go out for ice cream. September and the start of the school year brought a very busy work load.  October is my own personal uber busy month due to Halloween festivities and with all my commitments, it was hard to keep up with everything I wanted to do on the blog.

The other issue is work.  Lately, after sitting in front of computer all day, I just don't want to sit in front of one when I get home.

Myself, Karen from What It's Worth and Jennifer from the Book Den were lamenting about our blogging situation one evening.  Karen simply took August off.  Here is just a snippet of our conversation.

Jennifer summed it up and although I can't find the original Tweet, she basically stated that she is so over writing reviews in the same way.  I think that was my problem too, plus the self imposed rules that many bloggers set upon themselves.  I had gotten into a habit of posting a book review two times a week.  When I couldn't keep that up, I became frustrated and disillusioned.  Also, I felt that my reviews were stale.  I felt that I was writing the same review, but it was just for different stories and characters.  I tried to make sure that I included certain elements, like characterization, plot, writing and narration when it called for it.  I started to feel as if I were writing school assignments.  Bleh. 

I feel like I am slowly (very slowly) coming out of this rut.  I don't know if it's because winter is approaching and it's the time to hunker down inside, if I just feel I have more time, I'm more in the mood or what.  I'm also finding myself reading other blogs more now and chatting on Twitter.  I know I have loyal readers, and of course I would love more, but I can't put that pressure on myself or worry or feel guilty.  It's just silly in a way.  I started my blog for fun and I need to keep it that way.  I don't call my best friend every day to talk about books or even twice a week.  When I finish a book and we're together I talk about it.  So, when I finish a book and I want to write about it, I will.  My reviews may be shorter, and maybe even less frequent until I can get in my 2 book a week groove again.  But hopefully, I'll get there and if I don't I'm telling myself I can't stress about it.  (Maybe I still will a little.)   I also think I'll stop biting off more than I can chew.  That means less challenges for 2014, less Read-a-thons, less blog hops.  I already have a couple of my own that I want to continue.  Of course, this may change depending on all the pretty buttons and the excitement of joining events.

I know I've been lacking in the blogging department lately especially when compared with other blogs.  But it doesn't mean I want to stop.  I just have to make some adjustments.  I didn't know all the cool things I would inevitibly experience when I first started and who knows where my blogging endeavors will lead me from this point on, but I do know that I'm going to try to...

Image credit: innocent / 123RF Stock Photo 
Image credit: blotty / 123RF Stock Photo

Sunday, December 1, 2013

2014 Horror Reading Challenge

 photo horrorbutton2014.jpg

Don't be scared, it's just a reading challenge.

Dive into spine tingling, flesh crawling, gore ridden books.

•This challenge will run from January 1, 2014 - December 31, 2014.
•Books must be read and reviewed in 2014.
•You can choose fiction or non-fiction.
•Audio books are fine.
•Short stories are fine as long as you leave a thoughtful review.
•Books can cross with other challenges.
•You can join at anytime during the year.  Any books you have read in 2014 can be added.
•Anyone can participate (not just book bloggers). If you don't have a blog: You can link to Goodreads, Amazon, Shelfari, etc.  If you are using one of these platforms, the easiest way may be to make a seperate shelf for this Challenge or a post.
•Links back to the Challenge are appreciated and will help others if they would like more information.
•If you are using Facebook for this challenge, please write a post (you can just use a few sentences) about the Challenge.
•Links back to the Challenge are appreciated and will help others if they would like more information.
•When you review a book or short story, please do not write a sentence or two. Please write a full review, even if it is just a few few paragraphs.

Horror is described on the Bing Dictionary site as:
"...Literature grotesque and terrifying: describes a genre of motion picture or literature intended to thrill viewers or readers by provoking fear or revulsion through the portrayal of grotesque, violent, or supernatural events."

Horror can be subjective. The events of one experience may be horrific to one person and not to another.   But for the purposes of this Challenge let's be a little selective.  Think terror, dread, and fear.  I would really love this Challenge to be a meaningful exploration into the Horror genre.  Just because a vampire could be scary does not mean that every book that includes one is right for this challenge.  We don't necessarily have to go for the gore, but let's go for the throat and get our scare on!

If you are hard pressed to find some unique Horror books, check out the following blogs:
Wag The Fox,
Darkeva's Dark Delights
Horror Writers Association

 If anyone has any suggestions for this challenge or would like to host a mini-challenge let me know!

•Write a post about this challenge with a link back to this post.
•If you want to make a list of books you wish to read you can, but it's not mandatory.
•Your list is not set in stone. You can change, add or subtract books
•Sign up on the designated Mr. Linky below.  PLEASE DO NOT sign up without a post.  It is not fair to others who have written a post.
•The page to link your reviews is HERE.

1-5 Horror Books - Running Scared.
6-10 Horror Books - Brave Reader.
11-15 Horror Books - Fearless.
16 + Horror Books - Horror Hound.

Personally, I am going to go for Brave Reader and try to read 6-10 Horror Books in 2014.

Grab the Button!  Add it to your post and/or sidebar!

2014 Horror button white photo horrorbutton2014.jpg

Sign up on the linky below.  Please put the link in for your post not directly to your blog. Otherwise it will be removed.

Please also leave a comment after you sign up!

If you have any questions, please let me know!

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