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Posts Tagged ‘library thing early reviewers’

“So,” Kitty said, “what do we do?”

“What we should have done a long time ago,” Elizabeth told her. “What I should have been doing all along.”

A group of young men started climbing into the carriage, apparently intent on commandeering it for themselves.  Elizabeth paused just long enough to crush their fingers and flatten their noses and generally do whatever necessary to send the invaders flying.  When she was done, she dusted off her hands and smoothed out her gown and finished her thought.

“We act like warriors.”

(from Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dreadfully Ever After, page 246)

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dreadfully Ever After by Steve Hockensmith is the last book in the zombie mashup trilogy based on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.  It is also my favorite of the three, and I must admit that both of the “zombiefied” Pride and Prejudice mashups by Hockensmith (the other being, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls) surprised me with their lively banter and dark humor.  Hockensmith does a good job keeping the characters true to their original even as he manages to turn them into warriors.

Dreadfully Ever After begins four years into the marriage of Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam Darcy.  Elizabeth was forced to lay down her swords and other weapons when she became a wife, but unlike her sister, Jane Bingley, she hasn’t found solace in motherhood and isn’t even sure she wants to be a mother.  She misses practicing the deadly arts, and helping her husband take down a few dreadfuls who awaken with the spring thaw perks her up for a bit…but it isn’t enough.

In the very first chapter, Elizabeth and Darcy are returning home, discussing Elizabeth’s recent dark mood.  With their minds on their conversation, neither one realizes the little boy on the path in front of them, the missing son of Darcy’s steward, has joined the ranks of the undead…until he has bitten Darcy in the neck.  Not being able to amputate the affected area of the body before the plague sets in means certain death (and reawakening) for Darcy, and Elizabeth can’t bring herself to do what she ought to do: behead her beloved husband and burn his body.

When Elizabeth calls upon the Darcy’s aunt, Lady Cathering de Bourgh, for assistance, she comes face-to-face with the woman who sent ninja assassins to Pemberley to take care of Elizabeth once and for all shortly after her marriage to Darcy.  But where else can she turn, especially since Lady Catherine has access to a serum that will delay the progression of the plague and knows how a secret cure can be obtained?

Forced to obey Lady Catherine’s orders to save her husband, Elizabeth travels to the zombie-stricken London to get her hands on the cure in a way that could put her marriage in jeopardy.  Mr. Bennet and her sister, Kitty, are sent to accompany her, and they are joined by the fiercely feminist, Mary, who sees no need to follow a plan and jumps into the action head first.  Hockensmith also introduces some interesting characters of his own:  Nezu, the ninja sent by Lady Catherine to keep the Bennets in line; Mr. Quayle, a man in a box who is cared for by a pair of dogs; and Bunny MacFarquhar, a silly young man with a pet bunny who is everything that would have attracted the old Kitty when she was under the influence of her sister, Lydia.

Hockensmith portrays Elizabeth as subdued and smoldering, torn between her desire to be a warrior and her need to save her husband.  Mr. Bennet is as witty and spry as ever, and even Kitty and Mary are given their turn in the spotlight, with talk about dresses and books as they take down dreadfuls and evolve into likeable characters.  Hockensmith keeps the plot moving forward quickly with lots of action and hilarious dialogue, and the fates that befall certain characters are priceless.

Dreadfully Ever After is a delightful book that had made me amused, disgusted (there are many gruesome scenes with the dreadfuls), and laughing out loud throughout.  It is possible to read this book without having read the others, and if you don’t mind ridiculous interpretations of Austen’s characters and don’t have a weak stomach, I highly recommend it as an entertaining way to kill a few hours.

Check out my reviews of other books in the trilogy:

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls by Steve Hockensmith

Disclosure: I received a copy of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dreadfully Ever After from Quirk Books via the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program.  I am an IndieBound affiliate and an Amazon associate.

© 2011 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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“It is hard sometimes, I know.  One goes astray from the pattern prepared — allowing mundane affairs to carry you away, thinking you are in control when actually you have betrayed yourself.  In the example of one extreme, I will mention the soul whom you knew as Hitler, who was to be a benevolent leader of the European countries, a great light in that part of the world.  But he failed and, in his lust for power, short-circuited his own mission and the lives of tens of millions of others.  He believed in the illusion produced by his politics, and in the darkness of that delusion he was carted away.  In that hell now, he grieves an indescribable grief, painful beyond any experience known.  He grieves for who he is and what he did, a measure that is not easily repaired, though healed in time it will be.”

(The Hierophant of 100th Street, page 204)

This is probably the hardest review I’ve ever had to write.  I was intrigued by the summary on the back of the book calling The Hierophant of 100th Street a cross between The Celestine Prophecy and West Side Story.  When I saw it categorized as fiction/metaphysics, I was hesitant.  What the heck is metaphysics?  And more importantly, what is an hierophant?  After looking up the definition of hierophant (“a person who brings religious congregants into the presence of that which is deemed holy”), I dove in.

Because there are quite a few characters and a lot going on in The Hierophant of 100th Street, making it difficult to put my thoughts into words, let me just tell you upfront that I enjoyed the book  That being said, I’ll admit that a lot of it was over my head.  To me, it seems as though the book could be divided into two parts:  the people and events of 100th Street — a rough East Harlem neighborhood — in the 1960s, and the spiritual journey of the main character, Adam Kadman.

Author Cullen Dorn follows Adam beginning with his decision to be reincarnated and his rebirth as Adam Kadman, with the book officially opening when Adam is 17.  He is different from the other youths of 100th Street.  He is intelligent, always seeing things that others can’t, and not interested in cheap women, drugs, or fighting.  Adam’s story involves a near fatal stabbing, being drafted during Vietnam, his journey to Egypt and his flight back to the United States when love and culture butt heads, and his friendship with renowned psychic Clifford Bias (who in real life was a close friend of Dorn’s).

The spiritual aspect of the story involves Bias and the secret rituals he leads, as well as Adam’s visits to Arizona to hear Crowfoot speak about the different planes of heaven through medium Richard Ireland.  The mystical religion that guides Adam through his later years — what he had been seeking all along — is clearly spelled out throughout the book, but these scenes felt preachy and read like I was sitting in a college lecture hall.  I longed to quickly read through them to get to what I felt was the meat of the book:  the block of 100th Street where Adam grew up and the captivating characters found on its corners.  I couldn’t get enough of these characters:  John, Adam’s younger brother and a hoodlum and drug addict who winds up in prison; Eddie, a friend of Adam’s who grows up to be a cop and desires only to stop the drug dealers taking over the neighborhood; Count, whose lust for a conniving woman leads him to commit a crime that has the mafia and crooked cops seeking him out; and Landy, a talented musician whose love for Nicola is stronger than her heroin addition.  100th Street, as portrayed by Dorn, is akin to an entire semester’s worth of sociological study packed into just under 400 pages.

While Dorn does connect the spiritual aspect of the story to the larger picture of 100th Street, it is these characters that brought the book to life for me.  I don’t know what it’s like to live in a crime-ridden, drug-infested neighborhood, to worry about being murdered in a stairwell of a public housing complex, to see an entire neighborhood fall to the drug dealers, its inhabitants walking around like zombies.  How these characters come to terms with their situations and how their past lives and choices on the other side affect their actions in this world and the next gets you thinking about the workings of the universe, neighborhood dynamics, friendship and family, and how our decisions affect others.

Even if you think the mystical aspect of the book isn’t your cup of tea and doesn’t jibe with your own personal religious beliefs, The Hierophant of 100th Street is worth checking out.  Dorn’s characters are flawed yet endearing, and he takes readers to the streets to witness firsthand the heartbreaking effects of drugs, gangs, and prison.  At times graphic and completely devoid of hope, The Hierophant of 100th Street shows that life may not be all that it seems and that even in the darkest of situations, there is promise, if not in the here and now, then somewhere else.

Disclosure:  I received a copy of The Hierophant of 100th Street from Frog Books and LibraryThing for review purposes. I am an Amazon associate.

© 2009 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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From the very first page of Conscience Point, it’s obvious that Madeleine Shaye is writing her story, but to whom is uncertain.  It’s not a chronological account of her life; rather, it’s a twisted tale of messed up relationships and secrets.  At the center is Conscience Point, a crumbling mansion with Gothic undertones in rural New York, the estate of the eccentric Ashcroft family:  Serena, a matriarch obsessed with her birds; Violet, a hippie-like, free-spirited and mentally unstable artist with a drug and alcohol addiction; and Nick, a handsome charmer with commitment problems.

Author Erica Abeel tells Maddy’s story out of order.  Readers know right away that Maddy and her adopted daughter, Laila, have been living with Nick for about 8 years.  Maddy, a concert pianist and television arts correspondent, and Nick, a struggling book publisher, met when Violet brought Maddy home for a weekend during college.  Despite an immediate attraction, they didn’t become lovers until much later.  Maddy and Nick’s relationship seems stable yet fragile at the same time.  And all at once, things begin to fall apart.  There’s a shakeup at the television station, Nick’s job troubles make him moody, and Laila is planning to run off to Guatemala to do activist work.  Here and there, snippets from the past help readers to see how Maddy’s friendship with Violet bloomed and how she and Nick became a couple.

The plot of Conscience Point centers on secrets:  why Laila wants to leave the country, the shady circumstances leading to Laila’s adoption, what happened to Violet and her grand plan to turn Conscience Point into a commune for artists, and what makes Nick start pulling away from Maddy.  Abeel writes about love and betrayal, music and art in a choppy narrative that is difficult to follow.  I kept wondering what I was missing, the overarching theme or point she was trying to make, but I couldn’t even figure out why I was supposed to care about these characters.  While the characters’ eccentricities and stories were interesting, I found the characters themselves to be annoying and difficult to like even a little bit.  I couldn’t see what was so attractive about Nick, Laila seemed whiny and melodramatic, and Maddy was so blind about everything (I figured out the story of Nick’s betrayal on page 6).

As I read, I couldn’t decide whether I liked the book enough to keep going, and I changed my mind every 10 pages or so.  It would shift from difficult to follow, to interesting, to scratching my head, to interesting.  If it hadn’t been for my desire to learn more about the odd but endearing Violet, I may not have finished the book.  Overall, though, I’m glad I read the book, as the twists and turns and uncovered secrets were interesting enough and made the story more understandable.  Still, I felt like Abeel was trying to make a point about artists and old money that I just didn’t get — maybe because I have zero in common with these characters?  While there was some evolution in Maddy’s character by the end, the others didn’t change as much as I’d hoped they might, though they stayed true to what I’d seen of them thus far.  If you like tales of complicated relationships and Gothic settings and don’t mind overly dramatic characters, then I’d encourage you to give this one a try.

Click here to read an excerpt from Conscience Point.

Disclosure:  I received a copy of Conscience Point from Unbridled Books and LibraryThing for review purposes. I am an Amazon associate.

© 2009 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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Steve Luxenberg grew up believing his mother, Beth, was an only child. About five years before his mother’s death, he learned that she had a sister who was institutionalized when they were both young children. He never spoke to her about it, but when she died in 2000, the family learned that Beth’s sister, Annie, died in 1972 at the age of 53. Luxenberg wondered how it was that he and his siblings knew nothing of their aunt and why there was no evidence at all of Annie’s existence — other than the notice from the cemetery about placing flowers on the family graves, which triggered the investigation into his mother’s past.

Annie’s Ghosts: A Journey Into a Family Secret is the story of Luxenberg’s mission to learn about Annie’s life and why his mother went to such great lengths to conceal her existence. The book details each step on his journey, from the initial questions about whether it was right for him to dig up his mother’s secret to a reassessment of his mother’s life.

Luxenberg learns early on how difficult it is to obtain Annie’s medical records, despite her being long dead and his being her next of kin, but he eventually manages to dig up some of the records and begins piecing together Annie’s life. It’s not an easy endeavor; Annie was institutionalized in 1940, and many of her medical records were destroyed. Also, a number of people who knew Beth and her family before her sister was institutionalized had passed away.

In Annie’s Ghosts, readers go along with Luxenberg on his journey, as he presents information in the order in which he uncovers it. We learn that Annie was born with a deformed leg, which ultimately was amputated and replaced with a wooden prosthetic. She had a low IQ, was diagnosed with a form of schizophrenia, and was institutionalized without any hope of being released. But Luxenberg, in his quest for the truth, goes beyond presenting the simple details. He speaks with numerous doctors and mental health experts to find out how Annie’s condition was perceived from the time of her institutionalization in 1940 to her death in 1972 and compares it to how she would have been treated today.

Along with Annie’s story, he tells the history of the public mental health system, particularly in Michigan, where his family was from originally, so that readers can understand Annie’s world. Although these sections of the book moved a bit slow, overall I thought the story was riveting. Luxenberg pushes to the forefront the issue of family secrets, whether they should be brought to light, and what to do with them once exposed. He expresses frustration with the fact that his mother essentially wiped Annie out of her life and did all she could to keep Annie hidden, but he wants to understand her motivations and doesn’t cast judgment.

Luxenberg also tells the story of his cousin, Anna Oliwek, who knew Annie during her institutionalization. Anna, a survivor of the Nazi massacre of Jews in Radziwillow, has a fascinating story of her own, but you’ll have to get your hands on a copy of Annie’s Ghosts to find out for yourself.

Annie’s Ghosts is an emotional story about mental illness and the limitations of the public mental health system and raises the question of how far someone would go to keep a secret from those closest to them. We all have family secrets, but Luxenberg was brave enough to sort through his. Luxenberg’s more than 30 years as a journalist (he’s currently an associate editor at The Washington Post) shines through in his writing, and he knows just the right questions to ask to get the information he covets. Annie’s story is heartbreaking, but Luxenberg does his best to give her the voice and recognition she didn’t have during her life. I highly recommend this one.

Disclosure:  I received a copy of Annie’s Ghosts from Hyperion Books and LibraryThing Early Reviewers for review purposes. I am an Amazon associate.

© 2009 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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Lori Handeland’s Any Given Doomsday (which will be released by St. Martin’s Press on Nov. 4, 2008) is my first foray into the genre of urban fantasy, so I had no idea what to expect. If you love books with vampires, witch doctors, werewolves, and other shape-shifting creatures, you won’t be disappointed. And for the most part, neither was I.

Any Given Doomsday was fast-paced and action-packed, and though it’s not the type of book I usually read, I couldn’t put it down. I think Handeland did a great job putting the reader into the mind of the main character, Elizabeth Phoenix.

Elizabeth is a former cop turned barkeep who is well known for her psychic abilities. She can touch an object and know where to find someone. At the start of Any Given Doomsday, she witnesses the brutal murder of her foster mother, Ruthie, and wakes from a coma to learn from her ex-lover that the world as she knew it is over.

Elizabeth must assume Ruthie’s role as seer in an epic battle of good versus evil. Her job is to let the demon killers, or DKs, know which humans are demons, werewolves, witches, vampires, etc., that must be destroyed and where they can be found. She’s supposed to learn all about these supernatural beings from her ex, Jimmy Sanducci, but he never seems to stick around long enough to tell her anything, or he’s explaining things while some creature is trying to kill her. Ruthie is supposed to pass on what she knows as well, but she’s dead and reaches Elizabeth only through dreams (and falling asleep really isn’t convenient when you’re about to be killed). She also must take lessons from Sawyer, a centuries-old witch doctor who supposedly is a hunk and teaches her things through sex.

Yes, there is plenty of sex in Any Given Doomsday. Sex as a teaching tool, sex as a symbol of power, and sex simply for the sake of including a sex scene. I was able to overlook the gratuitous sex and the cliche cop-turned-bartender role, but I just couldn’t bring myself to really like any of the characters in the book–especially Elizabeth.

I understand Elizabeth is supposed to be some ballsy, sarcastic character who’s not afraid of anything, but she was a bit over the top. When faced with evil creatures intent on killing her and no apparent way out, Elizabeth acts as though they are an annoyance as minor as a hangnail. She had to be strong, sarcastic, and fearless all the time–there was no exception, and she just didn’t seem real to me. Her only weakness was Jimmy, and she tells you early on that he cheated on her in the past, so I wouldn’t have wasted a breath on him.

Also, I’m curious as to why there were a couple of scenes in which Elizabeth would be talking to one of the male characters, raise her head, and her chin would brush up against his crotch. (This happened enough that I noticed it and wondered if she had some sort of magnet implanted in her chin.) Seriously, if you’re that close, you need to step back about a million feet. What’s interesting is that these incidents didn’t even mark the start of a sex scene.

However, I think Handeland created an interesting story, though I would’ve liked to learn more about the various creatures that pop up throughout. Elizabeth didn’t learn all that much from Sawyer or Jimmy, and she was running blind throughout much of the book. I’m assuming more explanation is planned for future installments of The Phoenix Chronicles. Despite my feelings about Elizabeth, I think I’ll give book two a try.

Disclosure:  I received a copy of Any Given Doomsday from St. Martin’s for review purposes. I am an Amazon associate.

© 2008 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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Tears of the Desert is the memoir of Halima Bashir, a young woman who witnessed many atrocities in her homeland of Darfur and was courageous enough to speak out. Halima had an ordinary childhood as a member of the Zaghawa tribe. Life was carefree for the most part, doing chores and playing with other children in the village. Her father was the wealthiest man in the village (not rich by our standards, however), so Halima and her family enjoyed more comforts than the other village residents, including a Land Rover, a television, and a radio. Halima had a very close relationship with her father, who supported and furthered her desire for higher education, allowing her to postpone marriage to become the village’s first doctor.

Life changed dramatically for Halima when the Arab-led Sudanese government waged war against the black Africans in Darfur. After speaking out about the horrors she witnessed caring for the war wounded in the hospital in Hashma, Halima was forced to serve as doctor in a remote village. It was in this village of Mazkhabad that the war really hit home. After treating 42 schoolgirls between the ages of 7 and 13 (in addition to a young teacher) who were raped and beaten by the Janjaweed, or devil horsemen (a militia helped by the Sudanese government), and speaking to United Nations workers about the brutality she’d witnessed, Halima was captured, raped, and tortured. But more atrocities awaited Halima in her home village.

There are graphic scenes of rape, torture, and other horrors of war in Tears of the Desert. Many times I had to close the book and take a deep breath to calm my anger and sadness. It was hard to read, but at least it was only reading for me. Could you imagine living such a life? Could you imagine what it must have been like to hide in the woods and hear your loved ones being beaten, shot, or thrown into the fire? Could you imagine being treated so horribly only because you are a black African and not an Arab?

Halima writes in such a way that she becomes your friend; you know her life story, her hopes, her dreams. Her words are laced with pain, but we readers can never understand what she went through. I closed the book angry that in this day and age, such atrocities are allowed to occur. Why isn’t more being done?

I applaud Halima for bearing her soul to the world, for putting her life on the line to stand up for herself and her people. Tears of the Desert is a powerful book that brings the horrors of Darfur to life for those of us who complain about our lives but have everything we could possibly need and more. This is a book I will save for my daughter. She’s much too young to read it now, but years down the road, I plan on sharing it with her so she can understand how good her life is and how important it is to help those without the same freedoms. Hopefully, by the time she is old enough to read this book, the people of Darfur will be living in peace.

Disclosure:  I received a copy of Tears of the Desert from Ballantine for review purposes. I am an Amazon associate.

© 2008 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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In Home Another Way, Christa Parrish tells the story of Sarah Graham, a young woman who has lost her baby, her husband, and her place as a violinist at Julliard. She travels to Jonah, N.Y., to collect the money her father left her in his will. She’s broke, so the money will come in handy, but she’s blindsided by a provision in the will stating that she must spend six months in the small mountain town to pocket her inheritance. Sarah wants nothing to do with her father. She blames him for destroying their family and forcing her to live with a grandmother who refused to show her love or approval. Sarah can’t let go of this anger toward her father, and it has made it difficult for her to maintain relationships and enjoy life. The last thing she wants to do is live in her father’s house and interact with the town’s residents.

During her stay in Jonah, Sarah spends a lot of time with Maggie, the owner of the Jonah Inn who was in love with Sarah’s father; Beth, Maggie’s daughter and a waitress who was disfigured in a fire; Jack, Maggie’s son and the town’s pastor; Doc, a loner who spends nearly all of his time caring for Jonah’s poorest residents; and Memory, an outspoken woman who cares for her brain damaged son by herself and befriends Sarah when everyone else wants to stay away. At first I was afraid Parrish had created a cliche small town, complete with busybodies and goody goodies, but she quickly put my fears to rest. While the focus is on Sarah and her troubles, each of these characters has a story or a secret that helps Sarah on her journey to forgiveness.

Home Another Way is unlike many of the other Christian novels I’ve read, and that’s what I liked best about it. There are many themes within the book, such as forgiveness, adultery, abortion, divorce, and premarital sex, and Parrish is never preachy. Best of all, Sarah is unlike any character I’ve seen in Christian fiction (granted, I haven’t read all that much) because she’s not really religious. She’s promiscuous, vindictive, and angry, but also vulnerable and caring. She’s far from perfect…she’s real. The book didn’t end like I expected, and I was glad because it made it more believable. Parrish created a wonderful cast of characters in Home Another Way (she made me sad that there isn’t that small-town sense of community where I live), and I hope she revisits these characters in the future.

Disclosure:  I received a copy of Home Another Way from Bethany House for review purposes. I am an Amazon associate.

© 2008 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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