Quirk’s Dreadfuls Return!

22 03 2011

Hey all!  As promised I have a review of a new book!  Quirk Classics is releasing a new book and it’s  a sequel to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls.  Written by Steve Hockensmith (the writer of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls), Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dreadfully Ever After hits shelves and online sellers today, March 22, 2011.

The blurb off the back of the book reads:

When we last saw Elizabeth Bennett and Fitzwilliam Darcy –at the end of New York Times bestseller Pride and Prejudice and Zombies– they were preparing for a lifetime of wedded bliss.  Yet the honeymoon has barely begun when poor Mr. Darcy is nipped by a rampaging dreadful.  Elizabeth knows the only acceptable course of action is to promptly behead her husband (and then burn the corpse, just to be safe).  But when she learns of a miracle antidote being developed in London, she realizes there may be one last chance to save her true love–and for everyone to live happily ever after.
Complete with romance, heartbreak, martial arts, cannibalism, and an army of shambling corpses, Dreadfully Ever After brings the story of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies to a thrilling conclusion.

Now, personally, I found the book enjoyable.  I still find Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (the original) to be the best of the ‘trilogy’ and honestly, the best of the Quirk line of books.  The original Austen characters stay fairly true to themselves even in this sequel written nearly two centuries later.  Elizabeth Bennet is still strong and opinionated, Mr. Bennet still finds his wife and most of his daughters immensely silly, and Kitty is a carbon of Lydia trying to find herself underneath.

Critically, the only way to enjoy Dreadfully Ever After is to read Dawn of the Dreadfuls.  I don’t think much of the story would make sense without the set up from the prequel.  Many things from their training days and their relationship with Lady Catherine take precedence in Dreadfully Ever After.  Also, small things seem fairly predictable.  Who wouldn’t guess that seconds after a conversation about children that a child would bite Darcy?  (Seriously, I didn’t give anything away since you know he got bitten by reading the back of the book and you hit the fact that it’s a kid in ten pages or less.)  If I hadn’t been given the book courtesy of Quirk Classics and Goodreads I probably would have bought it, which is more than I can say for many of the other Quirk books (many of which I did actually buy).

So, what’s an advance review copy from Quirk without some sort of awesome giveaway?  Right, it has to happen!  So head over to the Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dreadfully Ever After Facebook page and “Like” it.  Eight random winners will get an “Antidote Necklace” which looks pretty cute.  Watch for other things, because Quirk is known to do a random giveaway with very little announcement outside the Facebook pages.  Go ahead and “Like” Quirk’s Facebook page too!
As for my own little giveaway, I’ll give away my copy of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dreadfully Ever After on Saturday the 26th!  Leave a comment here and I’ll choose a winner with a random number generator Saturday and in the mail no later than Monday.

*I did receive this copy of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dreadfully Ever After free of charge thanks to the kind people at Quirk Classics and Goodreads.

Back in the Saddle!

14 03 2011

After a super long hiatus, I’m back and ready to expand your minds with some awesome book reviews.   Look forward to more frequent posting (I hope) as well as a blog name change and move! 

In the coming week expect a 2010 recap of the 103 books I managed to read and at least 2 reviews from 2011 books that I got free of charge in exchange for a review (including the Pride and Prejudice and Zombies sequel out March 22!). 

Right now I’m reading an advance review copy of Minding Ben by Victoria Brown (out April 22 and available for preorder).

What is everyone else reading?

Another Miss in the World of New Literature

23 11 2010

I was recently asked to review a copy of Dirty Little Angels by Chris Tusa.  Off the blurb given it seemed like it might be a decent read.

“Set in the slums of New Orleans, among clusters of crack houses and abandoned buildings, Dirty Little Angels is the story of sixteen year old Hailey Trosclair. When the Trosclair family suffers a string of financial hardships and a miscarriage, Hailey finds herself looking to God to save her family. When her prayers go unanswered, Hailey puts her faith in Moses Watkins, a failed preacher and ex-con. Fascinated by Moses’s lopsided view of religion, Hailey, and her brother Cyrus, begin spending time down at an abandoned bank that Moses plans to convert into a drive-through church. Gradually, though, Moses’s twisted religious beliefs become increasingly more violent, and Hailey and Cyrus soon find themselves trapped in a world of danger and fear from which there may be no escape.”  – LibraryThing

One of the editorial reviews on Amazon.com called it “the To Kill a Mockingbird of 2009”.  I would have to grossly disagree.  Though I think the idea seemed great and the characters are decently fleshed out, there is no real point to the story.   There is no “what it’s about” it’s a “who it’s about”.  Hailey is who it’s about, but I felt like she wasn’t real enough to really care about.  She walks through the story with no one really tying her down.  She has a brother, a set of parents, a best friend, etc.  but she has no one that is just hers that she really relates to and confides in.  Her first sexual encounter is rushed and done with her best friend’s boyfriend while the best friend was sleeping.  There was no thoughts to it, just impulse and no consequences.  It seemed surreal.

Also, calling Dirty Little Angels a novel is a huge stretch of the term.  At best it’s a novella, though it seems more like a short story that rambles.    If it says anything, I was reading and expecting the climax of the story to happen at any turn of the page; and then it just ended.  Looking back, I can find the climax; but it seems a little hollow.  I expected something more.

It really seems like it would have been a great story if given some more time, some more editing, and some more plot.  The story feels unfinished and hopelessly filled with product placement and bad decisions to make it seem more gritty and real.  Instead it feels a little fake, a little desperate, and very undone.  It could have been so much better, but I think the author lost his way a little and then rushed to hit the end for publication.   It could have been great.  Maybe not up there with To Kill a Mockingbird, but at least something more than an inflated short story with no point.

Permanent Obscurity or more like Permanent Idiocy

22 11 2010

I was given a copy of Permanent Obscurity: Or a Cautionary Tale of Two Girls and Their Misadventures with Drugs, Pornography and Death by Richard Perez to read and review.  There isn’t anything to spoil it in my review, but since I thought it was terrible you can just skip to the end and read the last paragraph, my summary of the book.

At first look the book purports itself to be a satire of Bohemia and and 60s “sexploitation” films.  In my opinion it was a story about a couple of girls who never grew up and decided to try to find an easy way out of the hole they had dug themselves in.

Dolores and Serena, main characters,  are about as different as they come.  Dolores is an average sized, average looking, average photographer addicted to drugs and alcohol.  She works at a temp agency because she’s too afraid to really get out there and try to publish her art.  Serena is pure feminine perfection with a selfish demeanor.  She has no job and no real skills other than her looks and her ability to manipulate those around her.

To put it simply, I hated the characters.  Serena was a manipulative bitch from word one and never changed.  She was always out for herself and never stopped to question consequences.  She was ruled by her id.  When she wanted drugs she manipulated and weaseled drugs out of someone.  When she wanted to feel powerful, she found someone willing to play her submissive.  She exploited those around her for her personal gain.  I wanted to strangle her on a regular basis through the story.

Other than hating the characters, I hated the dialogue.  Talking in such dialect and slang through the whole story set my teeth on edge.  I realize that the characters are uneducated and uncouth in every way, but at least some of the narrative should have been in standard, grammatically correct, English.  The volgarity of the language (and some of the plot) left much to be desired as well.

I can boil the story down in a few lines:  Dolores and Serena are friends with no life outside of whining about their problems and getting high.  Dolores and Serena realize that they have a problem with their lives when people start stalking them.  Serena decides to make a femdom porno and steers Dolores into the plan.  Things go horribly wrong because they can’t keep themselves from getting drunk and high and self-sabotaging.  Someone dies and they have to decide to ‘man up’ and take responsibility or not.   The End.

The only reason I finished the book is that I was asked to read and review it and I gave my word.  Otherwise I’d have stopped half way through and asked for a refund.  I was not impressed at all.  If you still feel like reading it, be aware that it does have sexually explicit material in it that might not be for everyone.

Guest blogging

16 09 2010

You all know me as a reader.  Many of you don’t know that I also enjoy writing.  Recently, I had an opportunity to make use of two laundry baskets full of apples.  I detailed my experience, titled Applepalooza 2010, and it is a guest blog spot on my friend Prose’s blog.  Head over to Randomness of a Prose to check it out!

Good Enough to Eat, Indeed!

12 09 2010
As you may have read a few weeks ago, I pre-ordered a book in hopes of winning a lunch date with one of my favorite authors Jen Lancaster and her BFF Stacey Ballis.  I did not win a lunchtastic day with Stennifer, but I did get a consolation prize of having ordered a really good book. 

Good Enough to Eat by Stacey Ballis is an emotional feast of great characters and wonderful sounding food.  The main character is Melanie, a woman who has recently lost half of her body weight only to have her husband leave her for a big woman right after she opens her own carry-out healthy cafe.  Most of the story revolves around the ‘bad’ foods she wants vs the healthy way she’s trying to be.  There’s a love interest, wonderful friends, and lots of growing up for the 40-year-old ‘fat girl’.  It’s pretty great.

The whole back of the book (like the last fourth of it) are these great sounding recipes.  They’re based on the recipes in the book like the birthday banana cake and then following them are a healthy recipe version.  I haven’t tried the recipes yet, but they sound amazing.  I especially want to try the fried chicken; the secret in the book is poaching it in buttermilk THEN frying it so it’s cooked through and crispy instead of burned outside with a raw inside.  The banana cake also sounds awesome, so I’ll be trying these recipes out as soon as I can gather the ingredients and convince Penguin that he should try something other than Hamburger Helper and spaghetti. 

Interspersed with the life and the wonderful recipes is the whole fat girl in a skinny body thing.  Mel never sees who she is now.  She’s constantly fighting (and occasionally losing) the urges to binge on unhealthy foods and skip her workouts.  She battles her insecurities over her new body in ways she never had to worry about her old body.  She (and I assume, by extension,  Ms. Stacey Ballis) liken the urge to compulsively eat to an addiction, which it is.  I especially like how Mel thinks that you couldn’t expect an alcoholic to take one drink 3-5 times a day but not completely fall off the wagon,  or a drug addict that has to take just a few pills three or more times per day but never more.  That’s how it is with food though.  You have to eat 3+ times a day but not to overindulge.  It’s hard both in the book and real life. 

I am a fat girl.  I admit it.  I eat things I shouldn’t.  I almost never exercise.  I’m not healthy, but I’m not completely unhealthy.  I’m still relatively young (though swiftly approaching 30) and time hasn’t relegated me to diabetes and heart disease, yet.  I feel the press to eat better and exercise more.  I also feel a little helpless, because most of my problem has nothing to do with what I eat or what exercise I do, but instead are the result of a medical condition.  It is very frustrating, since I can diet and exercise and actually gain weight.  Most of the time I give up and decide to eat whatever I want.  I hate the looks I get when I eat real food.  I spend 36 hours a week with a handful of tiny women in the health care setting.  They eat their Lean Cuisine or salads and low cal yogurt and talk about jogging.  I eat home-made lasagna, mac n cheese, PB&J, Hamburger Helper, and cheesecake.  I don’t care anymore.  Some day I’ll get my medical stuff all figured out and then I’ll care again.  Until then, I’m being happy being me and savoring my home-made cheesecake with relish.

For your viewing pleasure, here are some pics of things I cook.  Visual feast! Bon apetit!

Apple Pie

Spinach & Bacon Quiche

Pumpkin Bread & Muffins

Apple Cake Lasagna


Weird Dreams and Intrigue

9 09 2010

A London cemetery may seem a strange setting for a novel not attempting to lure in the Twi-hards, Frankenstein obsessed, or the zombie crazed.  Her Fearful Symmetry has the reader in and out of the cemetery and in and out of the London flat bordering it through the whole book.  In fact almost none of the story takes place outside of a cemetery or a house bordering one. 

Basically, the story is about mirror-image twins Julia and Valentina, aged 21. Mirror image twins are explained to be twins who are not identical, but flipped.  In the case of Valentina, this even means that her internal organs are inverted in her body as well.  Julia and Valentina are the daughters of Edwina (Edie) who has/had a twin sister named Elspeth.  In the beginning of the book Elspeth succumbs to her battle with leukemia and leaves her London flat to her nieces, whom she has never met, with the stipulation that they live there for a year before they can sell. 

Julia and Valentina are the epitome of two-halves of one whole.  They dress alike even at 21 years old; they don’t do anything without the other; they don’t sleep in separate beds; and they have complementary skills and dispositions.  Where Julia is assertive and outspoken, Valentina earns her nickname “mouse” by being the meek and mild twin.  The whole book is filled with the tension between the two with Valentina ready to leave their conjoined existence to finish college, meet a man, have a family, and a host of other things that she doesn’t wish to share with Julia.  Julia, in turn, is afraid of losing her other part.  She sees herself as Valentina’s caretaker (Valentina has asthma and frail health) and feels that Valentina would be lost without her. 

After a while it becomes apparent to Valentina that there is another presence in the flat and she finds, gradually, that their aunt Elspeth is in the apartment in a ghost form.  She works out ways to communicate with the help of Robert, Elspeth’s lover and the downstairs neighbor.  In the mean time, skeptical Julia befriends Martin, the upstairs neighbor, and attempts to help him with his OCD.  Valentina learns about her mother and Elspeth’s childhood, though senses that there is a secret there. 

If I go into too much more I’m totally going to give away all of the plot twists.  I don’t want to do that, as I think that this was a decent book that my readers may want to read.  Just know that there is quite a bit of life and death and afterlife stuff to think about while reading it.  There’s also a lovely love triangle or two, a charming man with OCD, and the secret is pretty major.  It took my by surprise at least. 

My definite thoughts on it are still a bit muddled.  I tend to read until I’m tired, and then fall right to sleep.  As such, I’ve had two evenings of strange dreams centering around cemeteries, ghosts, OCD, and kittens (there’s a kitten in the book too).  I did find the ending strange, as though Ms. Niffenegger got tired of writing or could not find a sufficient way to wrap up the story and instead just gave it a hasty ending.  If given a chance, which I won’t and really have no place saying I could do better, I would at least do things differently.  Though I think that about many books that I read that I find have unsatisfactory endings. 

Though this doesn’t win a gold star in my book or anything, it was a good read.  It would be perfect for a book club choice or someone who needs something a little more substantial than ‘fluff’ books, but not so deep and mentally tiring as a classic or something like that.  I will say that I would love to go to London and see some of the things they talk about, including the Highgate Cemetery.  It sounds lovely.

Chrono-Impairment Is Not For Me!

6 09 2010

I’ve known for a long time that I could never date or marry a man in the armed services.  I also couldn’t be with a police man, a fire man, or a truck driver.  Never knowing when he would come home, never knowing if he was safe, never knowing who else he was with.  I crossed all of those so-called ‘sexy jobs’ off of my datable list.  After reading The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger I also have to cross off the chrono-impared. 

Chrono-impared, according to the book (which I totally realize is a work of fiction), is a genetic condition or disease causing one to jump forward and backward in time.  Henry DeTamble spends his life hitting different parts of time.  He shows up naked and has to use his wits and skills to provide himself with clothing and food.  When he leaves he leaves his clothes behind.  Much of his life is spent running from various dangers and revisiting parts of his past and occsionally his future.  He is unable to change much, but does try to make the best of it. 

Clare, the other narrator in the book, is not chrono-impaired.  Like a normal human, she lives her life from beginning to end with no jumping about.  From the age of six she’s had a friend and angel in Henry.  Though she questions his naked appearance and improbability the first time she meets him they become secret friends.  As she grows up she in frequently frustrated with Henry’s refusal to answer any questions about her future or his past/future.  She grows to the age of 18 with only a few mishaps and then has to spend two years sans visit from Henry until they meet in real chronological time.  She will see him for the first time in two years and he will meet her for the first time in his entire life. 

Eventually they marry (hey, I’m not giving too much away since the title says she’s the time traveler’s wife) and Clare is left behind as Henry travels.  Sometimes he is gone for a few minutes, others for nearly a day.  She works as an artist and Henry as a librarian (when he’s not traveling) and they both work with a doctor to see if there is a possibility of a cure for Henry.  Later in their marriage they work with him and a fertility specialist to try to conceive a baby. 

Now I can’t tell you too much more about the storyline without really ruining the book.  Like normal life Clare and Henry have ups and downs.  Unlike normal life, Henry leaves in a blink to experience parts of his life out of order leaving Clare behind.  They have friends that know his secret as both a cover when Clare isn’t there, and as a support for Clare when Henry is away. 

The book is confusing at times since there is so much jumping back and forth in time.  A few times there are two Henrys in the same place in the same time at different ages.  Or two Henrys and a Clare and they are all different ages.  Also, with the jumping back and forth you occasionally don’t know why something happened until later and the puzzle piece clicks in. 

In all, it’s a very emotional book.  From the beginning my heart hurt for the love and the impossibility of the situation.  The end had me in tears.  I suggest reading this book with some kleenex.  It really reminded me of The Notebook, it was so emotionally wrenching.  Kleenex will be your friend if you pick up a copy to try. 

I’m working on a movie rental, though I’ve heard that the movie was really bad.  I’ll let you know if I ever get around to it. 

Next up is Niffenegger’s Her Fearful Symmetry.  It was in a lot of magazines as a summer reading choice.  We’ll see.

Kickin’ Butt with Blomkvist & Salander

4 09 2010

Note: These are in the wrong order. They go Dragon Tattoo, Played with Fire, Hornet's Nest.


I had heard a lot of hype about Stieg Larrson‘s books The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played With Fire (also known as the Millenium Trilogy with the newest book called The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest) and thought maybe it was one of those “Oh, it’s so good!” where it’s really “Oh, it’s so predictable!” like other books that are super hyped nowadays.  I bought a Kindle copy of Dragon Tattoo when it was on super sale (Swagbucks was paying for it–For more info on Swagbucks and getting money for searching the web, email me!) and started it last week.  It was slow going at first.  I was trying to read it in 5 minute chunks while I was at work and I couldn’t get into it.  I finally decided that I needed to sit down and really get in to it.  Once I got past all of the random Swedish names, places, finance district information, miscellaneous stuff about Sweden, etc. it was REALLY good.  I was pleasantly surprised. 

I blasted through Dragon Tattoo in 2 days by spending a whole night on the couch with my Kindle and staying up WAY past my 8am bedtime (I was sort of compelled to start Played With Fire at 4am).  I finished that two days later (another sleepless night and day at work on absolutely no sleep, good idea, right?) and I had Hornet’s Nest queued up on the Kindle to start almost immediately.  I few through Hornet’s Nest in the matter of about 16 hours between a “babysitting” a patient shift at work and a sleepless morning after work.  I HAD to finish the story!

Major Characters and Plot Basics:

Mikael Blomkvist is a journalist and publisher of Millenium magazine, convicted of libel in Dragon Tattoo and spends a year trying to solve a mystery in exchange on information to avenge his libel conviction.  In Played with Fire he’s working on publishing a book when some things go wrong and Lisbeth is wanted by the police but nowhere to be found.  He spends Hornet’s Nest trying to solve the mystery of Lisbeth’s life and another great conspiracy.  Throughout the books he’s romantically linked to several women including his co-partner at Millenium Erika Berger and Lisbeth Salander among others.   

Lisbeth Salander is in her early 20s working as a freelance private investigator for a large security firm.  She’s different, to say the least.  She’s reserved, silent, and VERY good at what she does.  Through all of the books her researching skills are a great asset.  She and Mikael have a relationship and become friends of a sort while she is helping him with his mystery in Dragon Tattoo.  In Played With Fire she is linked to a few murders and we see more into her psyche and history through events unfolding as she’s avoiding the police.   Eventually she spends most of Hornet’s Nest recovering from events that unfolded in Played With Fire and trying to prove her innocence and regain her life.  

Erika Berger has a long history with Blomkvist as friends and they both describe the other as an “occasional lover”.  Erika is strong, independent, and kicking butt and taking names in the journalism world.  She’s usually the calm one and the voice of reason throughout the trilogy.  She’s often the glue holding Millenium, and occasionally Mikael, together. 

There are a bunch of lesser characters and they do stuff too.  The important part is that Blomkvist and Salander get rough with some bad dudes and learn a lot about themselves and others.  Of course they save the day in the end, but there is an endless inner monologue going while you read of “He did it… no she did it!… now what? How can that be?… Tell me who did it before I go insane!… She’s WHAT?!?!?!?”  and some more exclamations in a similar vein.  Until everything is resolved in the end, you’re pretty much clueless.  It’s awesome.

General Impressions:

Salander totally has some issues, but I found myself loving her even when I didn’t understand her.  When you find out in the end what “All the Evil” is, you can realize who she is and why she is.  It’s awful and amazing all in the same minute.   Mikael annoyed me occasionally because every time someone showed any interest in him he just slept with them.  I mean, he’s a total man-whore when it comes to that.  At other times though he’s the perfect gentleman and an amazing journalist/detective.  I wish that maybe his love life played less of a role in everything.  It really didn’t need to be there.  Erika was a cool character, and we really don’t see much of her until the third book.  Now, I don’t know if maybe that’s because Larsson wanted to expand her more in the later books that he didn’t get to.  I hope that’s the case, because she’s pretty much a minor character, sitting in the background and keeping things together. 

The storyline occasionally gets bogged down in random Swedish places, events, politics, and financial/business matters.  However, once you power through the story is quite fast paced and full of excitement and mystery.  Parts of the series fly by and I found myself turning pages quickly and staying up, fighting sleep, in order to get through ‘one more chapter’ or ‘just until I know what happens to…’ which led to several nights at work functioning on only a few hours of sleep.

I’m pretty critical of books, and the only think I hate about this series is that it’s over!  I guess I should be glad that they were even published as Larsson had finished them before death but never published them himself.  He supposedly wrote them for fun and had part of a fourth novel written and notes for others.  Purportedly he had envisioned a ten novel series.  Alas, and sadly, those will never come to pass as he died in 2004 of a heart attack.  Who knows, perhaps someone will ask his family and take on the fourth book.  I might be able to get on board with that. 


Grab a paperback or e-book copy of Dragon Tattoo!  It’s worth a few bucks to read and see if you can get into it.  I’m a little disappointed that I put it off so long.  Maybe next time something is hyped I’ll have to get on board sooner. 

Also worth mentioning:  Though there are Swedish/German movie versions of Dragon Tattoo, Played with Fire, and Hornet’s Nest; there are plans to make an English movie of Dragon Tattoo.  So far they have a few of the roles filled and it looks promising.  It’ll be worth a rental at least, right?

Stennifer: The Lunchtastic Tour!

1 09 2010

If you all remember, I love Jen Lancaster and have blogged about her at least once or twice.  Well she and her BFF Stacey Ballis are hosting a contest to win a lunch date with Stacey and Jen (a.k.a. Stennifer).  I’m so stoked about this it’s not even funny.  To enter, you must pre-order Stacey’s new book by September 6th.  It looks awesome, I mean it’s about a chubby girl and food, so I pre-ordered for my Kindle.  Stacey is trumping Jen on this one since Jen’s new book hasn’t dropped below $10 on Kindle yet.  What can I say? I’m cheap.  

I learned about the contest on Jen’s blog Jennsylvania.  She directed me over to Stacey’s blog The Polymath Chronicles.  There I learned that in order to win a great lunch date with two awesome ladies, wine, food, and signed books all I had to do was preorder Stacey’s new book and email her my confirmation.  Easy peasy!  After that I did one of the optional entries of emailing 20 people.  Yay for junk mail from people you know, right?  I can get more entries if people “like” the post I put on my Facebook wall.  (If you’re my friend on Facebook, so like it!)

Now if anyone wants to buy the book (or three) but have no interest in winning lunch with Stennifer, please email me your Amazon confirmation and I will claim your purchase for you.  It’s totally in line with the rules. 

Now, for more details hit up the post about it on The Polymath Chronicles.