I've moved bookishwhimsy.com to tumblr! This blog is now an archive of my past posts.


Friday, May 31, 2013

Review: Doctor Who: Beautiful Chaos + Giveaway

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , , , ,
Doctor Who: Beautiful Chaos
by Gary Russell
#10 of The Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Collection

Plot Summary:

Wilfred Mott is very happy: his granddaughter, Donna is back home, catching up with family and gossiping about her journeys, and he has just discovered a new star and had it named after him.  He takes the Tenth Doctor with him to the naming ceremony.  But the Doctor soon discovers something else new, and worryingly bright, in the heavens - something that is heading for Earth.  It's an ancient force from the Dark Times.  And it is very, very angry...

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who this year, BBC Books will be reissuing eleven classic Doctor Who novels – one for each Doctor – from across their fiction range. Repackaged with new introductions, bold new covers, and 50th anniversary branding, they are not only a collectable set for fans, but a brilliant introduction to the depth and range of the Doctor Who list.

Review:

The story is framed by the ending of Season 4 and Donna's memory loss, but most of it actually takes place soon after "The Sontaran Stratagem."  This novel touchingly focuses on the Doctor's friendship with Donna and the relationships between Donna and her mother and grandfather.  While Donna's mum, Sylvia comes off pretty tetchy and unsympathetic in the TV show most times, this story gives her more heart and background, especially with the death of Donna's dad.  I really enjoyed reading more about the Noble family and how they are not perfect, but they do love each other and support each other even if one doesn't actually believe in what the other is doing.  I think the highlight of this book is the family aspect, especially because it draws the Doctor into it and it's always interesting to see him out of his element.

The evil from the Dark Times is a much updated (upgraded?) version of a villain from the Classic series (first seen in an adventure with the Fourth Doctor) and because the villain uses our new technologically savvy world as the means to take over the planet, the danger feels very real, and is used to good effect.  But the evil is so very powerful, that the Doctor's solution felt a little rushed over and confusing and it was easiest to just take the Doctor's plan for granted that it worked.  It's really not that big of a deal, because the story is so engaging from the start, and the focus on character development - with the Noble family, and the side characters that Gary Russell so deftly paints in a few scenes - made this such a fun adventure.  I am also really impressed by how well Gary captured Donna's sarcastic teasing, Wilf's general adorableness and the beauty and pathos in Wilf's love interest, Netty.  And it is lovely that this book provides closure (now somewhat unnecessarily) to Donna's ending in Season 4.



I received this book from the publisher or author for a fair and honest review.  I was not compensated for this review.



Who-ology Trivia!


THE ELEVENTH DOCTOR'S RULES FOR COMPANIONS

Rule 1: 'The Doctor lies.'
Rule 7: 'Never run when you are scared.'
Rule 27: 'Never knowingly be serious.'
Rule 408: 'Time is not the boss of you.'

(p. 165)



~ Giveaway ~


With many thanks to the publisher and TLC Book Tours, I am offering a choice of ONE of FOUR of the Doctor Who books I'm reviewing for the Book Tour.  So with the Rafflecopter giveaway, the winner can pick EITHER

Beautiful Chaos by Gary Russell,
Festival of Death by Jonathan Morris,
Players by Terrance Dicks, or
Who-ology by Cavan Scott and Mark Wright (the official book of miscellany, celebrating 50 years of Doctor Who)

THIS GIVEAWAY IS INTERNATIONAL!

Please enter through the Rafflecopter form below.  The winner will be notified by email and will have 48 hours to respond with a mailing address before another winner is chosen.  The mailing address will be forwarded to the publisher who will send the winner their copy.  The contest runs until June 28th Midnight.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Thursday, May 30, 2013

Book Excerpt: Disneylanders

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
Disneylanders
by Kate Abbott


Plot Summary:

In Disneylanders, 14-year-old Casey Allison, on the brink of starting high school, struggles to find a new identity on her family's annual summer vacation, but with the help of an outgoing boy she meets while waiting in line, she discovers that Disneyland is the one place where her overprotective parents let her have the freedom to grow up. Casey looks forward to her family's annual summer vacation to Disneyland to escape her anxieties about starting high school. This summer, however, her vacation forces her to confront her parents' ancient attitudes, getting dumped by her best friend, an intense crush, and a pack of gum-snapping girls who seem intent on ruining her vacation.

Book Excerpt:

My hands were shaking by the time the gates swung open for us to climb into the shiny seats, and I focused all my attention on getting in and stowing my bag away. My heart was pounding, and pulling down the harness was too tough for me to do successfully.

Bert, seeing me grasping at it, reached over me, and gently pulled it down over my head. He had been trying not to laugh, but finally failed as he caught my expression, then strapped himself in.

He was jiggling his harness when the train pulled away. It took off at a crawl and stopped over the water as annoyingly suspenseful music played in our ears. I shut my eyes and tried to focus on hearing only the waves lapping in the miniature ocean around us.

“Okay, now I’m nervous!” Bert said, rattling the harness that had already locked into place. “I can’t breathe!” He laughed a little, but it came out high-pitched, and a lot like he’d sounded a few minutes before when he was doing his impression of me.

I squinted at him. “Well, how do you think I’ve felt for the last half hour in line?” I was in the middle of a silent and quick prayer for our safety and my gumbo to stay inside me. When were we ever going to take off? They made us sit here, listening to the music, on top of the water and with the misters blowing at us.

“No, look what I did!” he said. I heard him sucking in air rapidly and laughing at the same time, so I peeked over the harness around my neck. He turned toward me, too, and I saw that his brown eyes weren’t so cool and relaxed now. Panic mixed with embarrassment — that was more like me, really, and I thought it looked pretty funny on Bert.

“What’s wrong?” Clearly he was strapped in, with no danger of falling out. He wasn’t wheezing — not like it was an asthma attack or anything. He was seriously freaked out, but seemed to think it was funny. Watching the calm and cool Bert so nervous made me a lot braver. I liked being so close to him, having an excuse to look at him close-up, although it would be more romantic if he were maybe looking back at me and not hyperventilating.

It was probably my obvious staring, but he suddenly looked straight into my eyes, and his clear, strong gaze made me radiate warmth from the center of my body. I was the only other person he’d ever share this exact moment with. How many girls would ever get to see Bert this totally uncool?

“I must have taken too-deep-of-a-breath or something…” he gasped, “before…” — he breathed in, and tugged on the handles — “it locked, and now it’s too-tight-and-I-can’t breathe!” A giant breath came out, and he laughed at the same time.

Okay, so maybe he wouldn’t want to remember this moment ever again — but I would. Who would have known that out of the two of us, he’d be the one gasping for no reason other than his own crazy excitement? I was actually the cool one, right now.

I bit my lip, but couldn’t stop my smile. “You’re fine.” I touched the cold, puffy padding around his neck, and overlapped my fingers with his, just a little. I couldn’t resist adding, “Maybe if you hadn’t been laughing at me while you locked your harness in — “ He squawked, so I said with more sympathy, “Look, all you have to do is stop gasping like that, sit up as straight as you can, and you’ll be okay.” He adjusted himself, complaining, but did stop thrashing around in his seat. His grip on the harness relaxed, and he looked at me with relief.

His eyes locked on mine. Now I was a little short of breath myself. I felt the tiny droplets of mist in the air around us, and breathed in his coconut sunscreen. I forgot about the ride and hoped we could stay here, exactly like this, when the speakers blasted on — “Get ready, screamers!” — and the countdown to launch sounded. For once, I didn’t close my eyes as we blasted off, although I did manage to make my head face forward, as all the warning signs told us to do. I stole a glance at Bert’s face as it transformed into total mouth-dropping thrill, as he raised his perfectly arched eyebrows and let out a “Whoo hoooooo!” while we careened into the distance.

For once I didn’t care as much what was going to come on the ride, as I did about who was sitting next to me right now. I peeked sideways at him through the first drops, which seemed endless, shrieking as my stomach seemed to fly up while we plummeted. I watched him as he started to mess with the harness during the slow, halting climb back up again mid-track.

“Having problems?”

“Oh, nothing much — only I can’t breathe again!” Bert clutched his hat between his knees, and his short hair was sticking straight up. He was trying to look directly under his chin at the harness, which made him look like a wild-haired, panicky turtle.

“You’re fine!” I yelled, as we made it over the peak and flew downward.

“You are not…going to let me…forget this…are you?” he said between the screams of the other riders.

“No waaaay!” I said, as we swung around a corner and flew over the water lapping at the edge of the boardwalk below. Bert’s eyes mirrored the sparkle of the boardwalk’s lights, the gold on his watch gleamed, and the glow beneath us illuminated his face. Far in the distance behind him, I could see the Matterhorn’s craggy top and the sleek peaks of Space Mountain, both a clean, bright white against the darkening sky.

It was all dazzling for a couple of seconds at 55 miles an hour. No, I’m definitely not going to let myself forget this, either, I vowed, as we careened up and down the last dips, grinning and screaming until our throats hurt.

Doctor Who book giveaway!

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , , ,
Although my first Doctor Who review (for Beautiful Chaos) goes up tomorrow, I wanted to participate in Armchair BEA's giveaway topic today, so I'm opening up the book giveaway a little early. 

~ Giveaway ~


With many thanks to the publisher, BBC Books and TLC Book Tours, I am offering a choice of ONE of FOUR of the Doctor Who books I'm reviewing for the Book Tour.  So with the Rafflecopter giveaway, the winner can pick EITHER

Beautiful Chaos by Gary Russell,
Festival of Death by Jonathan Morris,
Players by Terrance Dicks, or
Who-ology by Cavan Scott and Mark Wright (the official book of miscellany, celebrating 50 years of Doctor Who)

THIS GIVEAWAY IS INTERNATIONAL!

Please enter through the Rafflecopter form below.  The winner will be notified by email and will have 48 hours to respond with a mailing address before another winner is chosen.  The mailing address will be forwarded to the publisher who will send the winner their copy.  The contest runs until June 28th Midnight.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Check out the other stops on the tour!
Other blogs will be offering giveaways for the books in the 50 Anniversary set, and for Who-ology!
Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Awesome Adaptations (40) The Hunger Games

Posted by Charlene // Tags: ,
This meme celebrates an awesome adaptation related to a weekly category. Any format of adaptation (television series, film, web series, etc.) is acceptable as long as it is based in some form on a book. This meme is hosted by Alisa Selene at PictureMeReading. Check out her site and join in on the fun!

An Awesome Adaptation with a Tough Heroine
Title: The Hunger Games
Adapted from: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

While the idea of pitting children against each other in a deadly fight for the sake of entertainment and as a punishment must breed tough characters for the sake of survival in the game,  Katniss is unique in her combination of abilities.  She's talented with a bow and arrow, but not particularly strong and not bloodthirsty enough to make her an obvious contender.  But her strong family bonds, her practical, sensible nature, and especially her intelligence makes her a tough heroine.

Katniss deals with many things in the book/movie and Jennifer Lawrence captures her focus and her tightly controlled emotions extremely well.  While the movie is an awesome adaptation overall of the story, I felt like Jennifer Lawrence's portrayal of Katniss really carried the film.  It's so important to have an actress realistically capture the tough and determined Katniss and also make sure the audience knows that she is also very compassionate and very much afraid.  That moment when Katniss is being brought to the field and looks at Cinna, almost shaking with fear, is such a powerful moment to me because it's a revelatory chink in Katniss's armor, and brings home the absolutely awful situation all the kids are in.  Of course the kids dying later also brings that home pretty vividly too.

While there are many tough heroines who are faced with hard social situations, in The Hunger Games, we have a heroine who is faced with the basic need to survive while also putting on a social facade, and all because she wanted to keep her sister safe.  There are many layers to Katniss, and I found the movie to have showcased her well, while also being a perfect visual introduction to the story and of course, I am eagerly anticipating the potential film awesomeness of "Catching Fire"!
Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Armchair BEA Introduction & the Classics

Posted by Charlene // Tags: ,
image credit: Nina of Nina Reads
Since I can't make it to BEA this year, I'm going to try and feel the book community love by participating on my blog through Armchair BEA! There are daily blogging topics, and for this post, I'm going to answer 5 of the Introduction questions posted here.


1. Please tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you? How long have you been blogging? Why did you get into blogging?

I started blogging a little over a year ago, and I didn't really know what I was getting into, I kinda just set up a blog and a layout and started posting the really short reviews I had written on Goodreads.  It seemed like it would be fun to maintain a book blog, which would help me keep track of the books I read and my thoughts on them.  Visiting other blogs and talking to other bloggers has been a great bonus, as I didn't realize how very much I liked seeing what other people were reading and sharing thoughts on great books.

2. What are you currently reading, or what is your favorite book you have read so far in 2013? 

I'm currently reading "The Nine Fold Heaven" by Mingmei Yip which is a historical fiction novel set in 30's Shanghai.  Although I haven't gotten very far reading it, I really enjoyed the first book in the series "Skeleton Women" so I have high hopes for this.  One of my favorite reads from this year was "Shadow and Bone" by Leigh Bardugo (I was a little late to the bandwagon on this!) but I loved the story and the characters and I'm really looking forward to going to the "Siege and Storm" launch party next week!

3. If you could eat dinner with any author or character, who would it be and why? 

Well I will pick a character for this fantasy dinner - Mr. Rochester from "Jane Eyre"!  I would love to hear the entertaining stories he must have told Jane during their evening conversations, and as a gentleman I can imagine he would pull out chairs and be very mannered and attentive which would bring joy to my romantic heart. :)  And since he has seen a lot of the world, I think he would be very interesting to talk to.  I'm not much of a talker myself, so if I can get someone interesting started with a few questions and then sit back and absorb, that sounds like a great time to me!

4. What is your favorite part about the book blogging community? 

If I have to pick one thing, I think it is the enthusiasm for reading and for books.  I grew up in a family where I am pretty much the only reader, and I didn't really have friends who were keen on reading either.  I wasn't used to sharing what I was reading more than saying the title and author and if it was good or not.  English classes were great to listen to the teachers talk about the book, but generally classmates weren't too keen.  And how amazing it is, that after the isolation, you can come upon a community of like-minded enthusiasts on the internet and interact with them so easily?  I love book blogging, not because I love writing reviews, but because it's so great sharing my love of books with other readers!

5. Is there anything that you would like to see change in the coming years?

Well, there is one thing that I would love to have happen someday soon!  It's to have a free ebook version bundled with the physical copy of the book.  I like to buy books that I plan to reread, and if I can have it on my bookshelf, and on my kindle for travel, it would be so useful!

In addition to the Introduction, there is a genre topic, that for today is all about the Classics:


Today, tell us all the reasons why you love classic literature. What are your favorite classics? If you could give a list of classics to someone who claims to hate them to make them change their mind, what would be on it? How would you convince them to give classics a try? And why do you keep coming back to those old favorites?

I love classic literature because they are well-written, and they reward the reader's investment by their well-shaped characters, great plots and complexity.  Classics have endured and continued to attract readers because they are the best of the best in my opinion.

My favorite book is a Classic - "Jane Eyre", but I also love "Dracula" "Huckleberry Finn", "Vanity Fair", "Lord of the Flies", "To Kill a Mockingbird" and probably others I can't think of at the moment.

For someone who hates Classics, it will be hard to give them something that might change their mind, but something with a good pace and not too long like "Lord of the Flies" or "To Kill a Mockingbird" might do the trick.  Possibly the first Classic I ever read would be a good start too - "Tom Sawyer". These books have great, thought-provoking stories and should be a good introduction to the world of Classics literature.

Thanks for reading this post!  And if you would like to follow my blog, I will definitely follow back! :)
Monday, May 27, 2013

Review: Harbinger

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
Harbinger
by Sara Wilson Etienne

Plot Summary:

When sixteen-year-old Faye arrives at Holbrook Academy, she doesn't expect to find herself exactly where she needs to be. After years of strange waking visions and nightmares, her only comfort the bones of dead animals, Faye is afraid she's going crazy. Fast.

But her first night at Holbrook, she feels strangely connected to the school and the island it sits on, like she's come home. She's even made her first real friends, but odd things keep happening to them. Every morning they wake on the floors of their dorm rooms with their hands stained red.

Faye knows she's the reason, but what does it all mean? The handsome Kel tries to help her unravel the mystery, but Faye is certain she can't trust him; in fact, he may be trying to kill her - and the rest of the world too.

Rich, compelling writing will keep the pages turning in this riveting and tautly told psychological thriller.

Review:

I was immediately drawn to this book by the awesome book cover! So mysterious and foreboding!  The plot is also intriguing, with a paranormal mystery brewing.  The story sets a quick pace right from the start with a rather complex setting to establish.  The Earth is very damaged, and with the lack of resources, humans have divided into collectives to ration their resources, while people in the bigger cities mostly have to fend for themselves.  While the desperate condition the world is in is ultimately necessary to the story, I felt like it was glossed over so quickly, that keeping up with the changes the new society produced made the narrative sometimes very confusing.  It was hard as well to understand what was going on because the main character, Faye, often hears and sees things that aren't real.  So it's difficult to decipher what is actually contributing to the plot, and what is her hallucination.  This novel seemed to have a lot to say but everything was so rushed together that nothing ever really came together.  Definitely I felt compelled to keep reading because often I really had no idea what was going on.

I did like the idea of "family" that keeps Faye and her school fellows together and the little rebellions they tried to stage.  The story is complex and the characters each have their own distinct personalities.  Although sometimes the personalities felt a little stereotypical.  The romance between Kel and Faye felt a little flat, mostly because they were drawn together by things that happened in the past, and the circumstances of that weren't revealed until the end.  A lot of people are keeping secrets in this story, and I think it makes the story an interesting read, but overall I was disappointed by the disjointed storytelling, the perfunctory romance, and the ending which wrapped up a little too easily.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Suspense Sundays (46) The Last Letter of Doctor Bronson

Posted by Charlene // Tags: ,
Suspense was a radio series from 1942 to 1962.  I have a fondness for "Old Time Radio" as we call it now, and Suspense is my favorite show.  It sets up weird, dark, scary, or intriguing stories with a plot twist in the end, and all in half an hour.  For Suspense Sundays I'll give a short review of an episode.   {My archive list of episodes}


"The Last Letter of Doctor Bronson"
Air date: July 27, 1943
Starring Laird Cregar and George Colouris
Dr. Bronson is obsessed with death and murder and has decided to conduct an experiment to explore what keeps people from murdering other people.  His hypothesis is that there are five blocks so he gets five subjects and eliminates all but one block for them, also giving them the motive and opportunity to kill him.  Of course he didn't take everything into account.

This episode has a very interesting idea behind it and it was fun to discover each of Dr. Bronson's blocks as he presented each experiment.  I really enjoyed the suspense and ingenuity of this story and yet it did seem obvious that there had to be a problem if you encountered someone with no blocks.  Yet I would like to think some people wouldn't kill just because they have no right to take another person's life - just because it's wrong.

And in case you are curious, here are Dr. Bronson's five blocks:
Fear of punishment, Religious belief, Owing a debt of gratitude, Loss of reputation, Squeamishness
Friday, May 24, 2013

Classics Retold Update

Posted by Charlene // Tags: ,
Sign-ups for Classics Retold ends tomorrow, so this is your last chance to join in on the fun in September and read that classic that's been taking up space on your bookshelf (or e-reader)!  I decided to compile a list of all the participants so far in my category: 19th Century and Gothic Classics, including a link to their introduction posts.  If I didn't add your introduction post to this list, please let me know and I will update it!  Thank you guys for participating!

Check out this post to sign-up!

Jane Austen

Emma 
Dee @ Dee's Book Blog [Introduction post]

Northanger Abbey
Mrs. Silverstein @ Reading on the F Train

Persuasion
Daphne @ Gone Pecan 
Paola & Alix @ A Novel Idea [Introduction post]

Pride and Prejudice 
Melissa @ Harley Bear Book Blog
Andrea @ Beauty but a Funny Girl

Charlotte Bronte

Jane Eyre 
Amy @ Book Goonie
Merin @ Read and Reviewed [Introduction post]

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Sherlock Holmes 
Alisa @ Picture Me Reading
Alice @ Alice in Readerland [Introduction post]

Alexander Dumas

The Count of Monte Cristo
DoingDewey

The Three Musketeers
Cassi @ Bright Forest


Elizabeth Gaskell

Wives and Daughters 
Whitney @ She Is Too Fond of Books [Introduction post]

North and South 
Rachel @ Paper Cuts

Thomas Hardy

Tess of the D'Urbervilles
Amanda @ Off the Book

Victor Hugo

Les Miserables 
Tory @ The Sleeping Latte [Introduction post]

Gaston Leroux

The Phantom of the Opera 
Krista @ Krista's Picks

Mary Shelley

Frankenstein 
Faith @ StudentSpyglass 
Fi @ Bookish Outsider

Robert L Stevenson

Treasure Island 
InkSpired

H.G. Wells

The Invisible Man
Melydia @ Utter Randomonium

The Time Machine 
Charlene @ Bookish Whimsy [Introduction post]


And for another fun event to sign up for (this time in July) check out Love Triangles 101!
You love them or you hate them, but you probably want to talk about them!  So check out this post to sign up!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Book Excerpt: Ship of Haunts

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
Ship of Haunts: the other Titanic story
by Ellie Stevenson

Introduction from the author:

Ship of Haunts is a complex story with some controversial elements, set in several time periods (1912, the 1940s and 2012). It’s a novel about Titanic but it’s also a story about child migration. Lily, one of the two main characters, is reincarnated as a child migrant in 1940s Australia: a tough world for a girl on her own. But how did she even end up in Australia?

Available for $0.99 on Amazon from TODAY!
Also read "Watching Charlotte Brontë Die: and other surreal stories" by the author for free!

Extract from Ship of Haunts


Lily’s Story: 1948

Titanic was then, in 1912, but we were about to travel again. To a different place, in a different ship, in a different time. None of it choice. I blamed Mad.

Mad and a woman called Eula Weinhart. She was the one who started it all. I was in the scullery.

Weinhart walked in, she could hardly wait to get off the street and into the house. Not that I blamed her, the drains stank.

It was the third time she’d called in as many weeks. I was watching them through a gap in the door. Mad looked grim.

I was meant to be looking after Bart, the boy, but that was too bad, for once he’d have to fend for himself. Bart was younger, and Maddy’s son by her latest conquest. A different father to Lucie’s, of course. I was the niece, down from the north.

Weinhart sat on the only chair. Mad was expecting, but never mind that. Not that I knew it, not officially. Lucie had said, but she hadn’t meant to. She thought I’d laugh, instead, I cursed, I’d met the father. As it happened, he’d gone.

Leaving us rather short of money.

Weinhart smiled, it looked like an effort. ‘Have you thought anymore about what I’ve said?’ ‘About what, exactly?’ Maddy looked blank. She wasn’t going to make it easy for Weinhart.

‘About sending the girls and the boy to Australia. It’s an outdoor life, and the weather’s good. They’ll all get trained, learn proper skills that lead to jobs. No more fear of being out of work. They’re lucky to get this chance, Mrs Rawlins.’

Maddy coughed and doubled over. She was no more a wife than I was a queen.

‘I’m sure you’re aware of all the benefits,’ Weinhart said pointedly, casting her eyes at Maddy’s stomach. I blinked in surprise.

How the hell did she know about that?

I could see Maddy thinking, the cogs in her brain going round and round. About how her life could be so much better, just her and the baby. About how she’d have time, and a lot more freedom. Don’t do it, I thought, but my thoughts were wasted.

‘It can’t be easy,’ said Weinhart slowly. ‘A woman on her own, with three children. Apart from whatever… might happen in the future.’

The cow, I thought. The evil cow.

‘Lucie’s got a job,’ said Maddy quickly. ‘She works in the shop, she’s there right now.’

‘Oh, no I’m not,’ said a voice behind me and there was Lucie, holding some flowers. Today was Mad’s birthday, but I’d forgotten, with all the excitement. The flowers looked limp, as if she’d picked them. I turned back to listen.

‘That’s all to the good,’ said Weinhart firmly, ‘but it can’t be enough. And it’s hardly fair on the girl, now is it? We like our children to be young at The Halt, it helps them fit in, but that’s not a problem, not for your girls. Lucie and Lily deserve a chance, and so do you.

She’s good, I thought, she’s very good. I hated her for it.

Weinhart continued. ‘The boys particularly, love it out there. They’re out in the open air all day. Some of the boys get jobs on farms, and maybe, in time, even their own. If they work hard.’ She smiled at Maddy and my heart sank. I knew her words were taking root. I glared at the bitch from behind the door. She was wearing a scarf on top of her coat. I imagined pulling the scarf tight, watching her face shift from pink to purple. I imagined watching her eyes bulge. I glanced at Lucie.

‘Those flowers aren’t from the shop,’ I said.

‘Shh!’ said Lucie. ‘Maddy will hear you.’

Mad wasn’t listening. She was too busy hanging on Weinhart’s words.

‘I know you want what’s best, Mrs Rawlins. Best for the children, and best for you.’ Again she glanced at Maddy’s stomach. Maddy swayed and grabbed for the door.

‘Let her sit down you evil witch!’ hissed Lucie sharply.

Weinhart did. She leapt to her feet and pushed the chair across to Maddy.

‘Here, Mrs Rawlins, have this chair.’

‘While you have the kids?’ said Mad faintly. But she still took the seat.

Weinhart was making a move to go. ‘Don’t think too long, Mrs Rawlins,’ she warned. ‘There’s a ship leaving for Australia soon. The children could be on it, making a start on a brand new life. And so could you. Just think, Mrs Rawlins. But not for too long.’

She walked to the door and stumbled out, weaving her way between toys and weeds as she crossed the yard. She nearly tripped.

‘Good riddance!’ said Lucie, clutching the flowers. They looked pathetic.

‘I think it’s time you gave those to Mad.’ Lucie ignored me.

‘She’s going to say yes. Can you believe it?’

I could, unfortunately. Weinhart had left, but I knew she’d be back. I followed Lucie into the lane. ‘Never say die,’ I said, valiantly.

She turned round to face me. ‘Why would I want to go to Australia? Southampton’s my home. It’s all I know.’

‘We could run away,’ I offered quietly. ‘Just you and me, before she comes back.’

‘We can’t do that, I can’t leave Bart. And what would we live on if we did? Besides, I don’t even like you.’

‘Fine,’ I said. ‘It was just a thought.’

‘Well, don’t bother,’ said Lucie, sourly. ‘How do we stop her?’ She was talking about Weinhart.

‘We can’t,’ I said. ‘The only thing we can do is leave, before she comes back.’

‘I can’t,’ said Lucie. ‘I can’t just go.’

But she would of course, even if only to go on the ship. I reached across to take the flowers. ‘I’ll give those to Mad.’

‘Oh no you won’t,’ said Lucie then, swinging the flowers out of my reach. ‘I’m not that sure she deserves any flowers.’ Then she dropped the bundle into the gutter and walked away, getting smaller and smaller, until she’d gone. I stared at the flowers, scattered on the cobbles, they looked, I thought, like a bouquet for the dead.

Which, as it happened, is what they were.


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Awesome Adaptations (39) Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Posted by Charlene // Tags: ,
This meme celebrates an awesome adaptation related to a weekly category. Any format of adaptation (television series, film, web series, etc.) is acceptable as long as it is based in some form on a book. This meme is hosted by Alisa Selene at PictureMeReading. Check out her site and join in on the fun!

An Awesomely Stylized Adaptation
Title: Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Adapted from: Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street by Christopher Bond / The String of Pearls by Rymer and Prest

I was half convinced I'd waken,
Satisfied enough to dream you.
Happily I was mistaken,
Johanna.
I'll steal you, Johanna,
I'll steal you.

Pretty much all of Tim Burton's films can fit this category!  With his first attempt at a musical adaptation, Tim Burton took the iconic Stephen Sondheim creation and transformed it into a moody, contemplative, monochromatic gory spectacle with his favorite leads, Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter, becoming very creative and highly sympathetic murderers.

The film does not take too many liberties with the original musical which is fantastic since the original musical is pretty near perfect, and where I think the movie version differs is in the approach to the characters.  Because most of the actors are not skilled singers, the songs are made more introspective and intimate, because vocal acrobatics are kept to a minimum, and while the scoring does have that gorgeous Broadway sound, it can't overwhelm the vocals.  And with a story that is so strongly dependent on the main character's history and motivations, I think this works in the film's favor because it is easier somehow to sympathize with Sweeney Todd.

While the movie generously splashes around the blood, I don't find it as disturbing because it isn't very realistic (read: stylized) and I very much appreciated that, since I'm a bit squeamish when it comes to gore in films.  In fact, this is the first time I had ever seen anything of this musical, and I loved the film's approach and the acting and the actors.  The singing isn't always top notch, but it fit the tone the film was going for and made me a fan of the music.  With the macabre humor, and the poignant tragedy for the characters, I think this is an awesome adaptation of a very dark story.
Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Review: A Shimmer of Angels

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
A Shimmer of Angels (Angel Sight #1)
by Lisa M. Basso

Plot Summary:

Sixteen-year-old Rayna sees angels, and has the medication and weekly therapy sessions to prove it. Now, in remission, Rayna starts fresh at a new school, lands a new job, and desperately tries for normalcy. She ignores signs that she may be slipping into the world she has tried so hard to climb out of. But these days, it’s more than just hallucinations that keep Rayna up at night. Students are dying, and she may be the only one who can stop it. Can she keep her job, her sanity, and her friends from dying at the hands of angels she can't admit to seeing?

Review:

I found the character's experience with the paranormal to be so refreshing in this novel.  Instead of the character accepting what basically undermines everything they know to be true up until that point, Rayna thinks she must be hallucinating instead of believing immediately.  Because of this and her experience in the crazy house, Ray is neurotic and always struggling for normalcy.  While it is effective to see how fragile she is in the first few chapters of the book, it was a little exhausting sometimes when I wanted the plot to move forward instead of reading more of Ray's mental checks or protestations.  But the flow of the story is really very good overall and I was always eager to keep reading.

I think the main interest for me lay in the dynamic of Ray's angel friends, Cam and Kade.  One is a fallen angel (not necessarily a bad thing though) and one is trying to play by the rules.  Cam is the typical nice guy romantic interest, but there is a forbidden love aspect to his relationship with Ray because of his angel status.  Kade on the other hand is the typical bad boy and much  more interesting to me.  He has his secrets and some redemptive qualities that makes it much more fun to explore his character.  Cam and Kade's interactions were always fun in this book though because of their antithesis to each other and their interest in Ray.

The plot and characters are all pretty engaging and the story has elements that deal with serious teen issues.  There's a balance in this book between realistic problems and paranormal ones that made the novel a more relatable and realistic read than others in this genre.  While there are hints of romance and a love triangle, it doesn't overwhelm the story and rightfully so as Ray has many more important things to focus on.  This is a great read with a very interesting mythology on angels that leaves much more to explore.

And shout-out to Lee for his Doctor Who love!  Who doesn't want a friend who's into Doctor Who! :D


I received this book from the publisher or author for a fair and honest review.  I was not compensated for this review.
Monday, May 20, 2013

Disneyland, Giveaway winners and Book Cover game answers

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
Disneyland! Doesn't that word fill you with glee? If it fills you with dread because of the prices, long lines, and the heat, well there are ways around ... two of those things. (Unfortunately, it's always going to be expensive)  This post is to share why I love the Disney resort so much and maybe some helpful tips when going there.  I just never get bored of the place!

All images were taken by me, by the way, from various trips this year, using my iPhone and Instagram filters.

I've been going to Disneyland in California since I was pretty young (thank you Mom!) and I'm definitely sure my love of the place stems from the nostalgia of my youth, and while some things are unfortunately not the same (the lure of some of the Fantasyland rides has faded) there is something about the joy in the atmosphere of the place that remains.  I think Disney does theme parks the best because of the theme immersion.  Each park captures the time or place they are going for completely, down to little details in architecture, costume, food, and even the things you can get in the shop.  I love that each 'Land' is so clearly demarcated and you know when you are going from one to the other.  With a little suspension of disbelief this theme immersion makes me feel like I've gone into the past or future (real or not!) and it is really fun to pretend!

The characters!  Everyone loves some Disney character (or all), and when you go to the Disney resort and see them walking around, waving and acting in character it does add so much to the atmosphere and makes me smile.  Especially to see how excited the kids become.  I admit, if I'm going to get a picture with a character, I find it a little too much to talk to them like they are the character (I still pretend though!) but I give Disney A+ for effort and for that small attention to detail.

And you have to admit Disney has a goldmine of characters to fall back on.  While other theme parks have mascots or some films and cartoons to represent them, there's something special about Disney.  They have a strong and diverse legacy that is appealing to children and adults and Disney can build on their own legacy so well.  There's more of an emotional attachment to the brand that is very lucky for the company.  This has certainly helped them revitalize Disney's California Adventures, with the excellent Toy Story Midway Mania and what I think is the best ride in the two parks - Radiator Springs Racers in Carsland.  And I don't even like the Cars movie that much!

Aside from the great rides which all have their own immersion quality to them (I especially love how the waiting area of so many ride lines perpetuate the theme of the ride) just the beauty of the park brings me back.  I often think it would be fun (though I haven't had the experience yet) to just go to Disneyland by myself and sit around taking in the shows (especially the ones that occur in the Park walkways), the parades and people watch.  Because the surroundings are so gorgeous, and the Disney resort must take a lot of time and effort to make sure everything unwanted is screened, and everything around us is blooming and smiling and pretty.  It's just wonderful to take it all in!

And now for some hopefully helpful tips if you plan to visit the Park:

  1. Get there early!! I know people like to sleep in, but the best time is the morning, when it's not too crowded and not too hot.  Get there before they open and make sure you know what rides you want to hit up first.  Usually the most popular ones would be a good pick.
  2. Take advantage of FastPass.  Get a FastPass for a popular ride, and then get in line for another popular ride!  Or get a FastPass and have lunch and then it might be time to get on your ride.  Because of the pass, my family has gotten lazy and we never wait for a ride if the wait is longer than an hour.  And an hour is kinda pushing it.  Most likely we won't wait more than 30 minutes.  
  3. Mid-day heat is awful, but if you plan some downtime in the middle of the day, it is perfect.  Go see Aladdin the Musical Spectacular which is 45 min, or go have a cool snack and sit in the shade and people watch.  Also go souvenir shopping, which even though I don't buy many things, I just love looking around.  There's also a little walkthrough of Sleeping Beauty's Castle which would be cool to check out and all indoors.  Also bring a fan or your own portable battery-powered fan (which is super expensive in the Park)
  4. For the readers of this blog, this is the best tip - bring a book to read!  It's a great way to spend line-waiting time, and I get some valuable reading time in.  Having an e-reader and a book light is recommended for convenience.
And that's it for my Disney Resort love post.  I wish I could post about Walt Disney World in Florida but I've never been which is tragic.  I will go someday though, and I can't wait to see what it's like!

Thank you to everyone who entered the Giveaway for signed copies of "Legend", "Shadow and Bone", "Possess" and "Harbinger"!  The winning entries are:
#167 Angie from Angela's Anxious Life and
#449 Tamara
Congrats you guys!  Check your emails!

And thank you to all the participants of the Book Cover Game! It was so fun to see people get what I thought were the difficult ones.  And people did really well overall with it!  Alice Liu, Aman @ Enticed by Books, Delaney @ The Awkward nerdy unites-Ness and Danielle @ Love at First Read all got the best scores - 13 out of 15!  And here are the answers (and the original post to refer to)
  1. The Fault in Our Stars
  2. The Hunger Games
  3. Lola and the Boy Next Door
  4. Taken
  5. Shadow and Bone
  6. The False Prince
  7. Insurgent
  8. Delirium
  9. Pushing the Limits
  10. Daughter of Smoke and Bone
  11. Anna Dressed in Blood
  12. The Scorpio Races
  13. Twilight
  14. Wonder
  15. Prodigy
Sunday, May 19, 2013

Suspense Sundays (45) Til Death Do Us Part

Posted by Charlene // Tags: ,
Suspense was a radio series from 1942 to 1962.  I have a fondness for "Old Time Radio" as we call it now, and Suspense is my favorite show.  It sets up weird, dark, scary, or intriguing stories with a plot twist in the end, and all in half an hour.  For Suspense Sundays I'll give a short review of an episode.   {My archive list of episodes}


"Til Death Do Us Part"
Air date: December 15, 1942
Starring Peter Lorre
Kindly Professor Kraft is well liked in the English village he lives in, but it is too bad his pretty young wife is flirting with the handsome American Doctor who just came to town.  But Kraft doesn't take too kindly to a man trying to steal his wife and decides that if he can't have her no one will.

This story starts off innocuously because while the Professor is solicitous to his wife's apparent cold and nervousness, he is actually putting in motion his big revenge scheme.  There is a fun flashback in the middle of this story that is framed by the fact that Kraft just poisoned his wife, and only then does the wife tell him what is really going on.  There is also a moment in this episode that dramatizes the United States' announcement to join the Allies in World War II and it's such a touching and devastating moment and amazing to think of it being present time when this episode aired.  Anyways, the twist in the end is excellent and of course justice is satisfied.  Peter Lorre pulls off the role of a devious, petty murderer very well.
Friday, May 17, 2013

Review: Possess

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
Possess
by Gretchen McNeil

Plot Summary:

Fifteen-year-old Bridget Liu just wants to be left alone: by her mom, by the cute son of a local police sergeant, and by the eerie voices she can suddenly and inexplicably hear. Unfortunately for Bridget, it turns out the voices are demons – and Bridget has the rare ability to banish them back to whatever hell they came from.

Terrified to tell people about her new power, Bridget confides in a local priest who enlists her help in increasingly dangerous cases of demonic possession. But just as she is starting to come to terms with her new power, Bridget receives a startling message from one of the demons. Now Bridget must unlock the secret to the demons' plan before someone close to her winds up dead – or worse, the human vessel of a demon king.

Review:

I'm just realizing how much I adore Gretchen McNeil's storytelling.  This is only the second book I've read by her (the first was Ten) but the way she spins suspenseful yarns is beautiful!  This story deals with demons and in tone this book was not what I was expecting.  With demons you'd think it would be pretty dark, but  thanks to the snarky, spunky Bridget Liu, just when you think you might be grossed out by the exorcisms, Bridget is just as grossed out and knows how to take the seriousness out of the situation with just a few words.  The story is not all light-hearted though.  Bridget is just coming to terms with the loss of her father when she realizes her gift, and she must deal with the trauma while also being the social outcast at school and trying to figure out who is behind the demon's plan.  It's a lot for her to deal with.  There are many touching, realistic interactions between Bridget and her family and friends, and although Bridget tries to be very closed off emotionally, there were times when her vulnerability peeked through, and I found her character arc to be very engaging.

The story grabbed me immediately, and while the demon aspect is already intriguing, the author adds more dimension with the nature of the demons and their past, and the mystery of why some demons act differently.  The romance in the story is sweet, but I didn't feel very much invested in it from the beginning.  It's a great addition to the story, but definitely the focus for me was on the suspense and the paranormal mystery.  The mystery of which priest could not be trusted, was a bit easy to guess, but thankfully there are multiple mysterious threads that weave this plot, and I absolutely could not put this book down until I finished the last page!

Amazon  Goodreads
You can still win an autographed copy of this book by entering my giveaway here!
Thursday, May 16, 2013

Book Excerpt: Fey Touched

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
Fey Touched
by Erin Zarro

Plot Summary:

Two sisters.

Asha is the Queen of the Fey, genetically engineered immortal humans who feed on human souls to survive. But she's running from her people. When she is found by her enemy, one of the Hunters of the Fey, she expects to die. Yet he's oddly intrigued by her, and Asha finds herself falling in love with him, hoping she can find safety and the home she's been seeking. Then she's kidnapped, and everything changes.

Fallon is a Hunter. She's looking for her long-lost sister, using an addictive drug to search through the stream of time. Her addiction leaves her dangerously exposed to her enemies but, consumed by her search, she doesn't care...until her fellow Hunters start dying from a mysterious illness. She is torn between duty and desire, and must find an answer before they all die.

What Fallon doesn't know is that Asha might just be the key to saving them all, if only she can find her.

And time is running out.

PLEASE NOTE that this book contains explicit language, explicit sex, and graphic violence. It isn't suitable for those under 18.

Book Excerpt


The people inside the small reception area stared at me as I signed in. I supposed it was my leather, or maybe my perpetual scowl.

The too-perky, too-blonde receptionist smiled. “Dr. Howard will be with you shortly.”

I returned the smile, nodded, and took a seat in the far corner of the spacious, brightly-lit room. It was decorated in warm tones, from the sage green sofas to the deep red throw pillows. The coffee table was glass that shone so bright, I wasn't sure if it was real. This was Howard and Sons, the best of the best when it came to bloodline tracking. They were the pioneers of the method and they were discreet.

The door on the side opened, revealing a short woman dressed in neon pink scrubs. Way to hurt the eyeballs. “Heather Abraham?”

That was me. No way was I giving my real name out here. There were all sorts of people I didn't want to know what I was doing. I stood, took a breath, and followed the retina-straining trail of pink through a hallway filled with paintings and pictures. We turned a corner, and then another, and we stopped in a sterile room that reminded me of the dentist, chair and all.

Neon Lady held out her hand. Her nails were painted, you guessed it, neon fucking pink. “I'm Amy. I'll be assisting Dr. Howard during the procedure.”

I just loved the way they talked 'round here. Procedure. Assisting. As if this were more than a prick of a needle and a computer readout. Crazy. But that was why I was about to pay them big bucks. The door opened and a man entered the room. He was tall and thin and looked to be about twenty. He was clean-shaven and wore his long black hair in a ponytail that hung halfway down his back. That didn't exactly scream scientist and genius to me, but what did I know? Maybe he had a rebellious streak.

He held out his hand, grinning. “Hi, I'm Gregory Howard. And you are..?”

“Heather,” Amy supplied.

I put my hand up to stop her from saying anything else. “Actually, my name is Fallon, but I was being – ”

“Dishonest?” Dr. Howard asked. But there was no judgment in his voice, just curiosity.

I couldn't look him in the eye. “Uh, discreet. I'm a Hunter, and I didn't want anyone to know about this.”

Dr. Howard nodded as if it made perfect sense. “Ah, I understand. We get that a lot around here.”

He then launched into a long, overly complicated explanation as to what they would do for the procedure, most of which went flying over my head. But I tried to understand, I really did. The only thing I got was that they'd take my blood, run it through the database, and then Dr. Howard would interpret the results. Easy peasy, huh? So I settled in to wait for Amy to get the vampire gear. In the dentist chair. Staring out the window at the ominous night sky.

“We don't get a lot of Hunters here,” Dr. Howard said. “Don't you guys have a thing about keeping the bloodlines pure?”

I nodded, glancing at him. “Yeah, we do. But I think I have a missing relative somewhere.” I smiled. “So I'm investigating. It's what I do best.”

“I bet,” Dr. Howard said with a grin. “I bet it's an interesting life, chasing down the bad guys.” I let my eyes widen just a little bit. “Very exciting. Except the part where they get punished. That I could happily never see again.”

Dr. Howard arched a brow as Amy reappeared. “Punishment?”

I leaned in. “It's top secret,” I whispered. “If I told you, I'd have to kill you and Amy. And that would be way too messy.”

Amy blanched. “Um, I've got the stuff. Let me see your arm.”

She did the pokey thing while Dr. Howard fiddled with a small laptop computer. She took the blood and handed the vial to him.

“Come over here and have a seat,” Dr. Howard said, gesturing to the seat that sat next to him.

My stomach clenched with nausea as minutes ticked by so slowly I'd thought time had stopped. That I was forever perched on this moment, waiting, dying. Not knowing. “Here's what I'm doing. See this slide? I'm going to place a drop of your blood on it.”

I watched, transfixed, as Dr. Howard took an eyedropper and sucked some blood into it. A drop of blood... Then he dropped the blood onto a clear slide that was attached to a huge, scary-looking machine. Amy took the eyedropper from the doctor.

He turned to me, smiling warmly. “Now the machine will analyze the blood, query the database, and come up with something.”

On Dr. Howard's laptop screen, a bunch of words scrolled down. I squinted, but couldn't read them.

“It's thinking,” Dr. Howard said. He typed. Changed screens. Consulted a tiny datapad I just noticed beside the computer. At one point, he glanced at Amy, who frowned at him.

“This is very interesting,” Dr. Howard said. “The database pulled up something very...odd. I'm in the process of double checking and running the query again.”

I felt as if all the oxygen had left the room. “Are you sure you're using my blood?”

Amy chuckled. “Straight from your vein to Dr. Howard's hand.”

“Wow, I've never seen this,” Dr. Howard said a few moments later, facing me. “Are you sure you want to know what I've discovered?”

My gut twisted. Was it bad news? “What's wrong? I'm not like, an alien or something?”

Dr. Howard smiled. “No, but it's just about as puzzling. Look.” I moved closer, my stomach churning.

He pointed to some numbers and a picture of a DNA strand. “The machine pulls up a bloodline name based on the DNA. You see this name here? This should be your family name.”

I blinked. “That's not my family name.”

“I think I can explain why,” Dr. Howard said.

I wasn't getting it. “Huh?”

Dr. Howard glanced at Amy, who shrugged. He looked at me dead in the eyes, and I tried not to flinch. “You know – and I know – you're Fey Touched. But this here shows that you come from a Royal Fey bloodline. But what's most interesting is that it's not a full match.” Clearly I wasn't hearing right. My legs collapsed under me. Dr. Howard and Amy jumped to catch me, guiding me back to the dentist chair. The room spun. “Okay, what are you saying? I don't understand.”

Dr. Howard pointed to a list of numbers on the screen. “This shows us that your DNA has been altered.”

“Well, no kidding. I'm Touched.”

Dr. Howard shook his head. “No. These weren't the modifications for the Fey Touched, at least according to the official records.”

I glanced at Amy, who shrugged helplessly.

Dr. Howard went back to the computer and pulled up something else. “Your family tree, based on your DNA.”

I stood even though the room pirouetted around me. “My family tree?” I looked at the screen and this time, I almost fainted for real.

The family tree I was looking at was not the family I belonged to. And the bloodline name he'd shown me wasn't the one I'd grown up with... Which meant...holy fuck, was I adopted? Whose family did I belong to? My stomach dropped to the floor and suddenly I couldn't breathe. My mother and father weren't my mother and father. In fact, according to this, I was part of the Royal Fey bloodline. No fucking way.

I scanned the family tree again, looking for a mistake, anything that I could grab a hold of, anything that would give me reason to not believe this.

Off to the side, there was an unnamed, deceased female. But that barely registered. “This is a mistake,” I said, and my tongue felt like sandpaper. My fingers twitched. “Bloodline tracking is ninety-nine point nine nine percent accurate,” Dr. Howard said gently. “I take it this wasn't what you expected?”

Hell no. Understatement of the year.

It was wrong. It had to be.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Awesome Adaptations (38) - The Constant Nymph

Posted by Charlene // Tags: ,
This meme celebrates an awesome adaptation related to a weekly category. Any format of adaptation (television series, film, web series, etc.) is acceptable as long as it is based in some form on a book. This meme is hosted by Alisa Selene at PictureMeReading. Check out her site and join in on the fun!

An Awesome Adaptation with Impossible Romance
Title: The Constant Nymph
Adapted from: The Constant Nymph by Margaret Kennedy

The impossible romance of this classic, absolutely gorgeous film, comes from fourteen year old Tessa's crush on her family friend, troubled composer Lewis Dodd.  What seems to be just a girlhood crush, is really a deep love and devotion that Lewis doesn't realize until it is too late.

I'm familiar with Joan Fontaine's work in Jane Eyre and  Rebecca and when watching this film, I was struck by how completely different she is in this role.  While in the previous two films she is meek and shy, almost painfully so, in this movie she has to play a young teenager to a young girl just on the threshold of adulthood, and Joan completely captures this buoyant energy that makes it hard to see her as anything but youthful and bright and fresh.  It's so different from what I've seen of her and it's a sharp contrast to Charles Boyer's gentle, almost fatherly character who is too wrapped up in his work to really see the people around him.  This movie is a layered character study, with the added drama of the woman Lewis Dodd decided to marry, Tessa's cousin, who is very sophisticated and rather haughty and unlikable.

I vacillated so much while watching this movie, about how I thought it should end, and if Tessa's love should be responded to, but in the end, I did feel like it was the way it should be.  Be prepared though, the ending is Tissue City!  I was so very touched by this intimate classic film, and Tessa's heartwarming and heartbreaking romance.
Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Review: Dead Ever After

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
Dead Ever After
(Sookie Stackhouse Series #13)
by Charlaine Harris

Plot Summary:

There are secrets in the town of Bon Temps, ones that threaten those closest to Sookie—and could destroy her heart...

Sookie Stackhouse finds it easy to turn down the request of former barmaid Arlene when she wants her job back at Merlotte’s. After all, Arlene tried to have Sookie killed. But her relationship with Eric Northman is not so clearcut. He and his vampires are keeping their distance…and a cold silence. And when Sookie learns the reason why, she is devastated.

Then a shocking murder rocks Bon Temps, and Sookie is arrested for the crime.

But the evidence against Sookie is weak, and she makes bail. Investigating the killing, she’ll learn that what passes for truth in Bon Temps is only a convenient lie. What passes for justice is more spilled blood. And what passes for love is never enough...

Review:

The final Sookie Stackhouse book! I felt a whole lot of trepidation going into this book - how would Charlaine Harris wrap up Sookie's long, involved, and complex story?  Who will Sookie end up with?  Can she ever not be in danger?  What about Hunter?  WHO WILL SOOKIE END UP WITH? (Not who I wanted actually but anyways...)  What I found intriguing about this last book was the major set-up in the prologue.  Bad people, Sookie's enemies, were gathering forces it seemed, and it brought a whole lot of foreboding tension already to this story.  And made me even more nervous.  (Is someone major going to die in the end?  Wait, what does "Dead Ever After" mean?)   But this tension was perfect for what I felt like Charlaine Harris was crafting for Sookie's final book.  It felt like a reckoning of sorts, and I was glad that so many characters from past books made an appearance here, either to show their support or to try and "get Sookie".  It's a wonderful way to show, that even though Sookie has had a lot of bad things happen to her in her life, the love and friendship of the good people of Bon Temps balanced that, and Sookie has a lot to be grateful for.  It's an approach that was very touching to read, and also raises the stakes because there are two separate plans to harm Sookie, and more than one bad guy to fear.

As with most of the books in this series, the soap opera-esque life of Sookie dominates the mystery portion, but with the little bit of information dropped in the beginning and the rare flash of insight into what the bad guys are up to, there is a lot of suspense in this story because you know many bad things are going to happen, but you don't know when, or who or why sometimes.  There's a delicious anticipation for the resolution and for more answers and because of that I found this a riveting read.  Of course, I found the way Sookie works through her dilemmas just as inspiring as I find her strong, astute, and generally positive character.  After reading this book I am again reminded of how much I love her narrative voice and her witty asides.

Because I really didn't have too many expectations or hopes for how Sookie's story will end, I felt like Charlaine's ending was perfect and captured everything I have come to love about reading a Sookie Stackhouse novel.  And even though I wanted Sookie to end up with someone else, I think the guy she got is perfect too.  This story moves quickly and gets quite complex with the large cast of characters but I feel it is a wonderful end to a wonderfully entertaining series!

Amazon  Goodreads

Footnote:
After writing this review, I've seen SO MUCH bashing of this book elsewhere and I really don't understand it.  Some people complain about the writing (that doesn't mean grammar or technical aspect I guess, cause that's good) but the plot and the character development.  I think people expected more from this book, but what we got wasn't a typical Stackhouse novel, but more of a trip down memory lane.  Other than that, most dissatisfied people seem to fall into two categories:
- MILD SPOILERS-
1) Eric lovers.
I've always loved Eric.  But he's ambitious and ruthless and not a nice person.  With his ending I think it's clear he wanted two things, and in the end he got one.  He got power, and he would never put Sookie first, so I think Sookie was better off without him.  As for his ending, I can't see the big deal -  it's true to character and to vampire politics, and for just 200 years - time means nothing to a vampire.  I really think people are exaggerating how bad this situation is for him.

2) Characters are inconsistent or People who are unhappy that Sookie is settling/ Not living up to what she wanted in the first books.
Sookie has always wanted to be normal and just human.  She embraced the widening of her life's experiences, but what has it gotten her?  Not normality that's for sure.  I think it's completely reasonable for her to want to live a regular life now.  And she's not intolerant, she always embraces her friends.  With Sookie and other characters, there are aspects of their personalities that have changed and matured, and rightly so with all they have gone through.

Anyways, that's my 2 cents.  And I'm not saying that everyone should like this book, I understand it can't please everyone.  But death threats to the author?  That makes me sad.  And with perspective, I really don't think this book is that bad.
Monday, May 13, 2013

Teen Book Fest + a Giveaway of "Legend", "Shadow and Bone" and more!

Posted by Charlene // Tags: ,
On Saturday, I went to the Teen Book Fest in Ontario, California where awesomeness assembled in the form of fab authors; some of whom I was not familiar with, and some I was very eager to see.  There were panels with themes that certain authors talked on, and while the themes were interesting, the event was rather low-key and intimate, and the panels really felt like eavesdropping on a conversation between authors.  Which was fantastic!  And since I had not read all the books by the authors at the event, it was great to hear them talk about the creation of their characters and plot, and I became excited about getting the chance to explore their books later.

There were many topics that were touched on, and I found the different processes of the authors so interesting.  When it comes to writing characters the authors ranged from needing to have something in common with them to not wanting to feel too much kinship with them.  There was also a great discussion of writing 1st person vs. 3rd person, which as a reader I don't really even think about when I read a book.  I just accept that that's the way the story is told, but the author really has to think about which approach works best for their story.  Towards the end of one panel, someone asked about marketing and Gretchen McNeil talked about how she self-promoted her book ("Ten") with the Ten Army and how effective it was to involve the readers.  Her new book "3:59" (which comes out later this year but I want it now!) has a similar promotional effort behind it that I think is a great idea!  It involves sending free T-shirts to people who are willing to wear it at book events and then gives incentives to people who see people wearing the shirt and tweeting about it or sharing it through social media.  Most of the authors have a presence on social media, and I find it rather exhilarating to be able to connect to authors this way, after being awed or touched by their work.
Marie Lu, Leigh Bardugo, Morgan Matson, Jennifer Bosworth
 Leigh Bardugo talked about how writing to James Howe (author of the Bunnicula series) and receiving a personal reply back gave her the sense that she knew him and they were friends,  and that translates in my mind pretty closely to the way readers feel when they tweet their favorite author.  And although I can't bring myself to think I am friends with these authors, I do an inner dance of joy when I get a tweet from them.  Somehow it makes me feel a little more personally invested in their books when I can exchange a few words with them about what I liked about it and a little more personally connected with this thing I love called reading.

And I have to share what was a really funny moment at one panel - when Marie Lu talked about her teenager years, and the first story she wrote was a fanfiction about Sonic the Hedgehog in which he gets into an accident and becomes paralyzed.  So wrong, yet so funny.  I want to read it!

I was able to get a few books signed, and I wanted to give them away to blog readers and hopefully you have or will enjoy these reads!  I've decided to have two prize packs:
 (NOTE: "Legend" and "Shadow and Bone" are paperbacks, "Harbinger" and "Possess" are hardcovers.)

What you need to know:
  1. OPEN TO U.S. RESIDENTS ONLY.  Sorry international visitors. :(
  2. There are two prizes - 
    1. Prize A: is (1) autographed copy of "Legend" by Marie Lu and (1) autographed copy of "Harbinger" by Sara Wilson Etienne. 
    2. Prize B: is (1) autographed copy of "Possess" by Gretchen McNeil and (1) autographed copy of "Shadow and Bone" by Leigh Bardugo.  
  3. I will pick TWO winners - the first name will get first choice - whether they would like Prize A or B, and the second winner will be notified of which books they are getting.  If my notification email is not responded to within 72 hours, a new winner will be chosen.  If the first name winner is the one who does not reply, the second name will get first choice.
  4. This giveaway is open for a week - from today to next Monday, May 20th Midnight.  
  5. All prizes will be sent ASAP with tracking numbers through USPS, but I am not responsible for lost or misplaced parcels.

  a Rafflecopter giveaway

I am disappointed I was not able to attend all the panels at this event and I missed out on hearing from more amazing authors, but I would like to list here the names of all the author attendees and a link to their book(s) on Goodreads.

Stephen Chbosky "The Perks of Being a Wallflower"
Carrie Arcos "Out of Reach"
Leigh Bardugo "Shadow and Bone"
Jennifer Bosworth "Struck"
Jessica Brody "Unremembered"
Sara Wilson Etienne "Harbinger"
Suzanne Lazear "Innocent Darkness"
Marie Lu "Legend" & "Prodigy"
Morgan Matson "Amy and Roger's Epic Detour"
Gretchen McNeil "Possess" & "Ten"
Gregg Olsen "Envy"
Andrew Smith "Winger"
Ann Stampler "Where It Began"
Lex Thomas "Quarantine: The Loners"