Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday (8)


"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

My choice this week is
In the Forests of Night:The Goblin Wars, Book 2
Author:  Kersten Hamilton.
Publication date: November 22, 2011

In the Forests of the Night: The Goblin Wars, Book Two





From Goodreads:
Teagan, Finn, and Aiden have made it out of Mag Mell alive, but the Dark Man's forces are hot on their heels. Back in Chicago, Tea’s goblin cousins show up at her school, sure she will come back to Mag Mell, as goblin blood is never passive once awoken. Soon she will belong to Fear Doirich and join them. In the meantime, they are happy to entertain themselves by trying to seduce, kidnap, or kill Tea’s family and friends.
Teagan knows she doesn’t have much time left, and she refuses to leave Finn or her family to be tortured and killed. A wild Stormrider, born to rule and reign, is growing stronger inside her. But as long as she can hold on, she’s still Teagan Wylltson, who plans to be a veterinarian and who heals the sick and hurting. The disease that’s destroying her—that’s destroying them all—has a name: Fear Doirich.
And Teagan Wylltson is not going to let him win.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Red Scarf

The Red Scarf
The Red Scarf by Kate Furnivall
borrowed from the library
Description from Goodreads:
Davinsky Labor Camp, Siberia, 1933: Only two things in this wretched place keep Sofia from giving up hope: the prospect of freedom, and the stories told by her friend and fellow prisoner Anna, of a charmed childhood in Petrograd, and her fervent girlhood love for a passionate revolutionary named Vasily.

After a perilous escape, Sofia endures months of desolation and hardship. But, clinging to a promise she made to Anna, she subsists on the belief that someday she will track down Vasily. In a remote village, she’s nursed back to health by a Gypsy family, and there she finds more than refuge—she also finds Mikhail Pashin, who, her heart tells her, is Vasily in disguise. He’s everything she has ever wanted—but he belongs to Anna.

After coming this far, Sofia is tantalizingly close to freedom, family—even a future. All that stands in her way is the secret past that could endanger everything she has come to hold dear

My take:
I was looking forward to reading this book for my book club. It was highly recommended by one of our members. I did enjoy the book and finished it in one day. I thought the premise held a lot of promise and for the most part, it delivered.

The story began without any explanation as to why Sofia and Anna were in the labor camp. The stories explaining their lives and the reasons for the imprisonment are told gradually throughout the book. The character of Sofia is developed quite well and I felt I understood her. I didn't feel that Anna was quite as well developed despite the fact that it was her stories that helped Sofia survive the camp. 

After Sophia has escaped the camp and has begun her trek in search of Vasily, Sophia seems to grow as a person and the reader is able to learn so much more about her and later, about Mikhail. The lives of  the villagers are interesting and rather complex for such a small place.  The villagers are somewhat mysterious and I enjoyed this section of the book very much. The gypsy family was particularly fun to read about. I did clue into the mistaken identity fairly early, so I was expecting that revelation. 

The thing I disliked about the story was that I really didn't feel that Anna and Vasily were believable as a couple after all those years apart. Unlike Sophia and Mikhail, they were not allowed the time for their relationship to develop in the present. It was based solely on their past relationship in childhood and years of remembering and guilt about their actions.  It just didn't ring true or believable for me.

Most of the book was quite good, but the way it ended for Anna and Vasily just left me flat.  I did like Sofia and Mikhail's story from start to finish.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Follow Friday


It's Friday! It's the start of the weekend and time for Follow & Feature Friday, hosted by Parajunkee's View.  This week's feature blogger is Mickey @ I'm a Book Shark.

The question for this week:

Q. In light of the Summer Solstice. Also known as Midsummer...let's talk about fairies. What is your favorite fairy tale or story that revolves around the fae?

A. Do I have to pick just one? Because I don't think I can.  I have to choose Tyger Tyger by Kersten Hamilton and the Iron Fae series by Julie Kagawa as my favorite books that revolve around the fae.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

What I'm Reading This Week


This week I am reading Great Tales from English History by Robert Lacey, The Vindications: The Rights of Men and The Rights of Women by Mary Wollenstonecraft.    As well as

         
The Beekeeper's Lament by Hannah Nordaus and A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin. How is that for variety? Realistically, I won't finish all four books this week, but I plan to finish The Beekeepter's Lament and hopefully, A Clash of Kings. The other two will take more time and effort to finish reading.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Priest's Graveyard

The Priest's GraveyardThe Priest's Graveyard by Ted Dekker
borrowed from library
Description from Goodreads:
The last thing Renee Gilmore remembers is being rescued by a pair of unknown arms after her drug-dealer boyfriend attempts to murder her. She wakes up in a beautiful glass house surrounded by doctors and the man that saved her life, Lamont Myers. Lamont offers her protection, if she abides by his rules. Among these; she must not leave the house, making her the bird in his gilded cage.


Danny Hansen is a Bosnian immigrant who came to America to escape the bloodshed of his country and the memories of his own involvement. Danny is a priest who lives by a strict moral code, one which values the loving of others above all else. It is those that pretend to abide by religious and legal law but intentionally harm others that insence Danny. And he believes it is duty to show them the error of their ways. Those few that admit and renounce their behavior are forgiven and set free, but never without a severe reminder of their wrongdoings. Those that refuse to admit to their behavior are killed.

A year after Renee is rescued by Lamont he is murdered and she vows to seek revenge. At the same time, Danny has continued to carve a swath of judgement and punishment.

In their individual pursuits, Danny and Renee's paths become entangled and before long it is clear that neither of them may make it out of this hunt alive.

My take:
This is the first Ted Dekker book that I have read.  I really didn't know what to expect from it, but I had read enough reviews on Goodreads to be intrigued.  The Priest's Graveyard is most definitely a thriller that is almost impossible to put down.  The story is disturbing, complicated, heartbreaking and unforgettable.

Danny Hansen, a priest who has a mostly unknown and horrifying past in Bosnia.  After the horrors of war he witnessed as a young boy and then participated in as retribution for the brutal killing of his family, he is now a seemingly normal parish priest serving the neighborhood.  But Danny secretly continues his work trying to bring what he sees as justice to those who commit crimes against the helpless.  His story is so heartbreaking that it hard to judge him too harshly. But the story is very disturbing and calls into question right and wrong, good and evil and whether any of us have the right to judge anyone else.

When Renee comes into his life, things get even more complicated.  Renee is possibly even more broken than Danny.  His emerging feelings for her make things confusing for him.  Renee's situation is just heartbreaking. She is incredibly broken by her life up the point where she meets Danny.  Unfortunately for both of them, she isn't even aware of most of the horrors that have happened to her.  Their story is so fascinating and sad that I just had to finish reading it.  The book is very disturbing, but interesting in the way that morals are discussed and questioned.  I was challenged and entertained by the book.  This isn't for everyone, but it thrillers, murder stories, etc. are your thing, this is a good one.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Follow Friday



It is Follow Friday! Congratulations to Parjunkee's View - this 50 weeks of Feature & Follow Friday!
This week's Feature Blog is Rhiannon Paille. Please check out her blog!



This week's question:

Q. Genre Wars! What's your favorite genre and which book in that genre made it your favorite?

My answer: Okay, that's tough. I like lots of genres but I do know that it was J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings that made me a fantasy/sci fi fan.  That trilogy changed my reading habits forever.

J.R.R. Tolkien Boxed Set (The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Counting from Zero

Counting from ZeroCounting from Zero by Alan B. Johnston
digital galley provided by author for review
Description from Goodreads:
Can a security expert save the Internet from a catastrophic zero day cyber attack by a network of zombie computers, known as a botnet? At what cost? “Credible and believable, this story is told by a subject matter expert. I could not wait to find out what happened next.” – Vint Cerf, Internet pioneer “The threat to the Internet from worms, viruses, botnets, and zombie computers is real, and growing. Counting from Zero is a great way to come up to speed on the alarming state of affairs, and Johnston draws you in with his story and believable cast of characters.” – Phil Zimmermann, creator of Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) the most widely used email encryption program Today, every computer connected to the Internet is under constant attack from viruses, worms, port scans, and spam. Security professionals continually fight to contain newly unleashed cyber attacks, known as ‘zero day' attacks, only to have new attacks launched. Millions of computers have already succumbed, and, without their owner’s knowledge, have become slave computers - remotely controlled ‘zombies’. Under the control of organized crime and backed by foreign governments, these computers are morphing into collections known in the industry as botnets, short for robot networks. Internet security expert Mick O’Malley is the only one who recognizes the growing threat of the ultimate zero day attack on the Internet from a massive botnet, and his unique hacker skills and network of colleagues enable him to fight back. More cyber prep than cyber punk, Mick uses real-life tools and techniques to encrypt all his communications, and uses these skills to break the encryption used by the botnet. Mick uses encryption on a personal level, too, having multiple passports and multiple names and identities. While crisscrossing the globe in the air, on land, and at sea investigating the threat, Mick becomes the target of attacks on his reputation, his identity, and ultimately his life. Along the way, Mick meets Kateryna Petrescu, a beautiful Romanian firewall expert. Mick’s attraction to Kateryna develops as they work closely together and share the excitement and danger. Why is the government following Mick and trying to intercept his communications? Can he stop the zero day attack before it is unleashed? What will be the cost to Mick for his single mindedness? Unfolding across three continents, the new techno thriller "Counting from Zero" gives a realistic insider’s view of the thrust and parry world of computer security and cryptography, and the very real threat of botnets.

My take:
Counting from Zero by Alan Johnston is about an important and intriguing topic - computer security and the vulnerabilities of computers to botnets. My husband works in IT, so I am not completely unfamiliar with the issues dealt with in the book.  Computer security is a vital part of all computer professionals' lives and I love hearing my husband's stories about the various issues and attempted attacks on systems.  When I received an email from the author, I was happy to read the book and review it.

The first part of the book gets off to a decent start, but the transitions in action and dialogue are a bit abrupt and take some getting used to.  I did enjoy how the story unfolded though and continued to read even with the difficult transitions in action.  Mr. Johnston's knowledge is definitely in evidence throughout the book.  I appreciated the blog-type entries before each chapter which explained different security issues, terminology, etc., even if it was mostly review for me.  I admit that I am a bit of a geek and I liked these little touches.  I also liked that the encrypted emails were printed in the book as they would be on an actual email.  It helped with authenticity.  There were also social media-type updates at the beginning of each chapter that provide a bit of humor and insight into the thoughts of Mick, the main character.

I thought Part II of the book flowed much better than Part I. It seemed to me that the abrupt transitions were less in evidence and the story just pulled me along to the end.  This was a hard book to put down.  I think that people interested in computers and computer security and well as cyberpunk type books would enjoy Counting from Zero.  I'm not saying its a perfect first book, but the story had me interested throughout and it did make me look at my computer security again.  And again.  It seemed to me that the final chapter sets things up for a sequel and I would definitely be willing to read another installment in this story. 

Friday, June 10, 2011

Follow Friday

It's Friday again and we all know what that means. Time for some Follow Fun. This meme is hosted by Parjunkee's View. This week's Feature Blogger is Nicki J. Markus.  The question for this week is:


Q. The magic book fairy pops out of your cereal box and says "you and your favorite character (from a book of course) can switch places!" Who are you going to switch with?


My Answer: Wow! Now that is a tough one. I think that I will go with Diana Bishop from A Discovery of Witches. Now, I admit that sometimes she has a hard time accessing her abilities, but she is so smart and I love her area of study and that she gets to do research at Oxford's Bodleian Library. I just finished reading this book and will be reviewing it soon.
A Discovery of Witches: A Novel

Russian Winter

Russian Winter: A Novel (P.S.)Russian Winter by Daphne Kalotay
review copy provided by Harper Perennial
Description from Goodreads:

A mysterious jewel holds the key to a life-changing secret, in this breathtaking tale of love and art, betrayal and redemption.

When she decides to auction her remarkable jewelry collection, Nina Revskaya, once a great star of the Bolshoi Ballet, believes she has finally drawn a curtain on her past. Instead, the former ballerina finds herself overwhelmed by memories of her homeland and of the events, both glorious and heartbreaking, that changed the course of her life half a century ago.

It was in Russia that she discovered the magic of the theater; that she fell in love with the poet Viktor Elsin; that she and her dearest companions—Gersh, a brilliant composer, and the exquisite Vera, Nina’s closest friend—became victims of Stalinist aggression. And it was in Russia that a terrible discovery incited a deadly act of betrayal—and an ingenious escape that led Nina to the West and eventually to Boston.

Nina has kept her secrets for half a lifetime. But two people will not let the past rest: Drew Brooks, an inquisitive young associate at a Boston auction house, and Grigori Solodin, a professor of Russian who believes that a unique set of jewels may hold the key to his own ambiguous past. Together these unlikely partners begin to unravel a mystery surrounding a love letter, a poem, and a necklace of unknown provenance, setting in motion a series of revelations that will have life-altering consequences for them all.

Interweaving past and present, Moscow and New England, the backstage tumult of the dance world and the transformative power of art, Daphne Kalotay’s luminous first novel—a literary page-turner of the highest order—captures the uncertainty and terror of individuals powerless to withstand the forces of history, while affirming that even in times of great strife, the human spirit reaches for beauty and grace, forgiveness and transcendence.

My take:
This book was a complete pleasure to read. It is a wonderful mixture of ballet, literature and history. I have long been fascinated with Russia and both my daughters take ballet lessons as a professional ballet company school, so we spend the greatest part of our time in the studio, at rehearsals and at performances.  The chance to read a book about Russian ballet was just too good to turn down. 

The story line is subtle and very complex, so I would rather not try to explain it too much.  I think readers would rather have it unfold for them as the story progresses. Instead, I will give some examples of what I loved about the book.

I both loved and hated the way the story slowly unfolds while switching between Soviet Russia of the 1950's and present day America. I enjoyed the back and forth, but at times is was frustrating because I so wanted to find out what happened next.

The descriptions of the ballet studio and the dedication that was required of the dancers was wonderful to read. I learned some new terminology: "No down, no feathers." is a Russian ballet saying before a performance that came from an old hunters saying -- basically it equates to break a leg (roughly) and the response in Russian would be "Go to hell."  I am used to "Merde" being the usual saying before a performance.

It was quite evident that Nina had something very painful in her past that she wanted to escape from and forget about. The specifics were not revealed until very late in the book and I was constantly guessing and changing my mind about exactly what it was throughout the story. Even during the difficult, painful times of her life, dance was always a release and comfort to her. 
Even during the war, when each day brought news of devastation, and hunger sat like a sharp stone inside her, Nina's anemic body always awoke to dance, always found some reserve of strength that she hadn't know she possessed. . . . The physical sensation of dancing - despite the constantly sore feet and bruised  legs and sweaty tights stained yellow from rosin - has always managed to erase other hardships. (p. 274)
The wonderful descriptions of Nina and the other dancers and their rehearsals, the details about dress, toe shoes, competition between dancers, the joy of dancing, the pain of injury and the strange and unique position of ballet and the arts in Soviet Russia was a joy to read.

The other element that I particularly enjoyed was Grigori's story line and the beautiful descriptions of academic life and study.  In some places the ideas discussed reminded me of Stoner by John Williams which I also loved. This idea in Russian Winter is an example.
After all, universities themselves were museums of a sort, places where people like Zoltan, and others who did not quite fit in, could comfortably ensconce themselves for decades - entire lives, even - worrying away at whatever esoteric subject they chose, until their hair had receded and the last of their youth disappeared. (p. 303)
I think my favorite scene with Grigori is where he is reading a particularly well-written journal that holds some of  the answers he is looking for and he can't be pulled away from his reading for anything as mundane as a meeting. He just had to keep reading.  I think all avid readers can relate to this feeling and the strong pull of a well-written story.  This book is a shining example of just such a story.  Whether you are interested in Russian history, ballet, jewelry, literature or just like to read, this book is a wonderful choice.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Marked (House of Night, #1)

Marked: A House of Night NovelMarked by P.C. Cast, Kristen Cast
kindle book purchased from Amazon.com
Description from Goodreads:
The House of Night series is set in a world very much like our own, except in 16-year-old Zoey Redbird's world, vampyres have always existed. In this first book in the series, Zoey enters the House of Night, a school where, after having undergone the Change, she will train to become an adult vampire—that is, if she makes it through the Change. Not all of those who are chosen do. It's tough to begin a new life, away from her parents and friends, and on top of that, Zoey finds she is no average fledgling. She has been Marked as special by the vampyre Goddess, Nyx. But she is not the only fledgling at the House of Night with special powers. When she discovers that the leader of the Dark Daughters, the school's most elite club, is misusing her Goddess-given gifts, Zoey must look deep within herself for the courage to embrace her destiny—with a little help from her new vampyre friends.


My Take:
I know that this is a popular series and many people love it. I read it because I have tween daughters and I could see the title coming up in near future and I wanted to see if I would approve it for their reading. I thought the premise was promising and the covers are visually striking. I tried to give the book a fair chance and tried to be impartial when reading it. 

I really thought that there were too many agendas being worked in the first book.  I felt like the authors were trying too hard to cover all the bases. It felt like they worked off of a list of  issues they wanted to address, the character types they wanted to deal with and somewhere in the process, it all got turned into a formula.  I wanted to like Zoey, but I felt she was an inconsistent character. She is supposed to be the smart, level-headed girl but she had shallow friends and a stupid boyfriend before she was chosen -- and suddenly she is able to pick out the best of the kids at the new school to be her friends?  I don't really buy that. She is also very judgemental and hypocritical - there are several double standards in the story. I also was not impressed with the way sexual issues were handled in the book.

So, I won't be suggesting this series for my daughters - or any teen, really.  I think there are many better books available for teens and young adults.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Follow Friday

It's Friday again and we all know what that means. Time for some Follow Fun. This meme is hosted by Parjunkee's View. This week's Feature Blogger is Amy at BackseatReader. Amy's question for this week is:

What are you doing to prepare for an upcoming zombie apocalypse and/or the return of Mel Gibson to the silver screen? (Both of which could be terrifying.)

My Answer: Wow! What a great question.  Most of our family has read Max Brooks' Zombie Survival Guide
 The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead 


as well as World War Z
World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War.  Because we are aware of steps to take and have begun our preparations , we feel that we are on the right track. We just need to find a school bus. . . 

My recent reading in preparation for the Zombie Apocalyse has been
FEEDFeed (Newsflesh, Book 1) and Deadline Deadline (Newsflesh, Book 2) by Mira Grant because when it happens, I want to help the masses survive by getting the information out there.






Wednesday, June 1, 2011

20 Years Later

20 Years Later20 Years Later by Emma Newman
kindle book purchased from Amazon.com
Description from Goodreads:
LONDON, 2012: IT arrives and with that the world is changed into an unending graveyard littered with the bones, wreckage, and memories of a dead past, gone forever.

LONDON, 2032: Twenty years later, out of the ashes, a new world begins to rise, a place ruled by both loyalty and fear, and where the quest to be the first to regain lost knowledge is an ongoing battle for power. A place where laws are made and enforced by roving gangs-the Bloomsbury Boys, the Gardners, the Red Lady's Gang-who rule the streets and will do anything to protect their own.

THE FOUR: Zane, Titus, Erin, Eve. Living in this new world, they discover that they have abilities never before seen. And little do they know that as they search post-apocalyptic London for Titus' kidnapped sister that they'll uncover the secret of IT, and bring about a reckoning with the forces that almost destroyed all of humanity.

My take:
I've been wanting to read this book for a long time. I finally just bought it for my kindle and read it very quickly. For such a fast read, the post apocalyptic world is built and revealed very slowly.  The reader learns about the small patch of London where Zane and his mother Miri live in a mutually beneficial relationship with two of the local gangs. Zane has managed to reach early teens living within this sanctuary of a garden where he and his mother raise the fruits and vegetables that feed them and provides the herbs for healing the wounds of the gang of boys that live nearby. This sheltered existence can only be sustained for a time, and as Zane grows up, new people arrive and strange things occur, their lives become even more precarious and interesting than before.

There are mysteries about Zane's father and what happened to him as well as about what exactly IT was and how and why it occurred. As the story unfolds, more mysteries pop up such as what is the relationship between Zane, Titus and Erin and later Eve. Why are they different from the others? How did they get this strange link they have?  Why are the Bloomsbury Boys always boys and where do they come from? 

Zane is very innocent and this provides an interesting contrast to some of the other children in the story, particularly the Bloomsbury Boys and Erin. Is innocence like this possible in such a post apocalyptic world? I'm not sure, but within the safety of the garden and the limited areas he is allowed to venture into, it seems like it might be possible. His mother has strong motivation to keep him protected, so it seems plausible.

The story moves pretty quickly and the book is hard to put down.  There are some answers but still more questions at the end. This leads me to believe and hope that there are more books in the wings.  If you enjoy post apocalyptic fiction, this might be a good book to try.