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.

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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?





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.





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. 

Conclusion: 

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.





Avonlea Days

28 08 2010

In June I had a childhood flashback and read the whole Anne of Green Gables set.  Most of the books were free for Kindle, so it was cheap summer reading.  I’m so sad now that I missed this as a child.  I would have loved it then as I loved it now.  Anne Shirley and I would have been friends just as much as Laura Ingalls, Nancy Drew, Nan-Bert-Freddie-and-Flossie, and Elizabeth & Jessica Wakefield were. Through the Avonlea books we follow Anne Shirley’s calamitous childhood and somewhat picturesque adulthood covering 42 years of her life. 

  • Anne of Green Gables is about 11-year-old orphan Anne Shirley being adopted (somewhat mistakenly) by Marilla and her brother Mathew to ‘help on the farm’.  Anne is immediately transferred from a tragic childhood to a wonderful world of farms, friends, and mischief.  She constantly tries the patience of Marilla and the other adults in the area but never ceases to amaze them at the same time.  Anne comes to love life in Avonlea and excels in school.  She and several of her friends attend Queen’s Academy and become licensed teachers.  Anne gives up a prize to go on to university after family circumstances change and takes a teaching position near home.  Gilbert (an old childhood nemesis turned friend) gives up the Avonlea school in order for Anne to be even closer and thus cements and even stronger bond between them. 
  • Anne of Avonlea follows Anne from ages 16 through 18 and her trials and tribulations as a teacher at her own local school.  It also introduced twins Dora and Davy which Anne has a part with raising.   Anne and Gilbert continue studies at home in order to stay fresh and continue with college the next year. 
  • Anne of the Island covers ages 18 through 22 and Anne’s stay at Redmon College to get her college degree.  Gilbert and many of their friends from Queen’s Academy are there to provide many an anecdote.  We also meet Anne’s first love interest Roy Gardner.  She finds after a while that she cannot marry him though and returns alone to Green Gables with a degree and find Gilbert home and deathly sick.  She finds she loves him more than she knew and praying for his safe recovery.  He does, and after a brief courtship Gilbert proposes and Anne accepts. 
  • Anne of Windy Poplars (also published as Anne of Windy Willows) covers ages 22 through 25 and written as a series of letters, journal entries, and stories between Anne and Gilbert.  Anne is staying at an old house called Windy Poplars with two widows, their housekeeper, and a cat while she works as principal of a high school and meets challenges from colleagues, students, and parents alike.  In true Anne fashion she finds a way to make everyone love her in the end.  At the book’s conclusion Anne is headed back to Green Gables to marry Gilbert. 
  • Anne’s House of Dreams has Anne aged 25 through 27 and married to Gilbert.  They move to a small fishing village where Gilbert will be a doctor.  They have their little house of dreams, new neighbors the Ford’s and Ms. Cornelia Bryant who are all colorful characters, and a few tragedies.  It sets the stage for the rest of the series as Anne and Gilbert are adults and encountering adult life. 
  • Anne of Ingleside is about Anne’s life aged 34 through 40 in their new (and final) house of Ingleside.  The book is full of stories of Anne and Gilbert’s five children (with one more born during the book) and the seemingly never-ending visit of Gilbert’s detestable Aunt Mary Maria Blythe.  Towards the end of the book we see Anne worried that her husband doesn’t love her anymore, and of course it’s all ok in the end and quite a bit heartwarming.
  • Rainbow Valley shows Anne at 41 but is mostly about her children and the new minister and his three children.  We meet the Meredith children running wild and trying to behave with no one to teach them how to.  There are quite a few great stories about the children punishing themselves for misdeeds and their father completely oblivious until the end when he feels guilty and tries to find a solution by way of a new mother for the children.
  • Rilla of Ingleside 49-53 and told mostly from the point of view of Anne’s daughter Rilla.  It has a completely different feel as it centers around the men and boys going off to war (World War I).  Rilla is taken from a silly girl of 14 to a mature woman of 18 through the course of losing her brother’s and friends one by one to the ‘call of the piper’ and by her own choices about things she encounters.  Her secret crush and good friend Kenneth Ford (son of the Ford’s from House of Dreams) is injured and returns home during which time they court before he returns to war once healing and leaving Rilla in a state of emotional turmoil.  The book ends with all returning, but never to normal and key people are missing and everything has been changed by the war. 

My impressions of the series as a whole are of a great girl turning into a woman and having all of her dreams come true interspersed with personal tragedy.  My favorite books were the first and the last.  Seeing Anne at the beginning in my head was just so fun.  You can’t help but laugh when she mistakenly gets her friend drunk by opening the wrong bottle in the pantry for lunch, or dying her hair green when a traveling salesman sells her something while Marilla is away.  She’s precocious and precious.  Then there’s Rilla, who is the baby of the family and a very immature 14.  She has to grow up quite quickly as her world is turned upside down by World War I.  Her brothers and friends leave her to fight in the war, her older sisters leave for college, and Rilla is left all alone at Ingleside.  She rises to challenges of starting a Youth Aid group and raising an abandoned baby.  Both these acts, and many others, shape her into a mature young woman by the end of the novel. 

Truly, I’d love to go back in time and live in Avonlea.  A world without the stress of today.  I mean, seriously, there’d be no worrying about how much you have to catch up on Facebook.  It wouldn’t matter if you forgot your cell phone (in fact, you wouldn’t even have a home phone!).  Anyone who wanted you would find you in person, send a message through a friend, or send a letter by post.  Leisure activities included knitting, crocheting, sewing, reading, and visiting with friends.  Cooking and baking were all from scratch with ingredients you or someone near you produced yourselves.  Sure there’s no running water, air conditioning, electricity, etc; but the focus of life was on family, community, and God.  There’s something to be said for that. 

Ok, ok.  I’m a little off topic.  So sue me.  Read the books if you haven’t already (and possibly even if you have already).  They’re good, wholesome entertainment. 

Don’t forget to sign up for a free copy of Love, Charleston here on The 20 Something Bibliophile!  Drawing will be the 1st of September! Click Here To Enter!





Not so in-Love, Charleston

25 08 2010

I joined a new website to review books.  It’s called Book Sneeze (see the new button on the right side of the page) and they let me choose a book, review it, and then choose another.  I get the books free of charge either mailed to me or in a PDF file.  All that they ask is that I give an honest review.  I am not obligated to like anything that they send me.  I get to choose, and the selections are limited, but I get to read free books as long as I tell them what I honestly think.  I’m sort of liking that.  I just finished my first book from them and though it’s not my norm as far as reading material, it was free and not terrible.

I read Love, Charleston by Beth Webb Hart in my free time at work and in the mornings before I went to bed.  All in all, about 4 hours of reading time.  The book purports to be a story about Anne, a bell ringer waiting on God to send her a man; and Roy, a South Carolina country boy-now single father and pastor moved to the big city.  A side story is supposed to be about Anne’s sister Lish, pregnant with her third perfect child, and Anne and Lish’s cousin Della and her marital woes and general dissatisfaction with life.  What the book ends up being is mostly about Della’s jealousy of Lish’s perfect life and Lish’s postpartum depression.  Anne is really a minor character.  Roy is in there a bit more as he has some interaction with everyone and thus is a little more present in the story. 

The characters themselves are real people.  I felt like I could have met people like them and been friends with them. 

  • Roy comes across as a great teddy bear of a man who’s lost the love of his life and worked hard to be a great pastor and teacher of God’s word while parenting his daughter Rose.  He’s just now to a point in his life where he thinks he might be ready for love again when God sends him a job in the big city of Charleston.  Roy doesn’t think he’ll fit in, but things fall in to place and he decides to make the best of it.  He is a very caring person, very driven by his love of God and his desire to spread the love of God to those who need him.  His heart breaks for his congregation and gets healed by meeting and falling in love with Anne.
  • Anne heard a message from God that said “Stay and wait” and took it to heart.  She waits, and waits, and waits.  She loves her job as a bell-ringer at St. Michael’s Church and even goes abroad to ring historical bells and learn how to be a better bell-ringer.  She’s really not all that present in the story.  She’s gone for around half of it and corresponds by letter and email with Roy. 
  • Lish is a small chunk of the story as well.  By appearances she has the perfect life.  She has her childhood home that she’s completely updated, a wonderful doctor husband, her perfect children in color coordinating outfits, and a bun in the oven.  She writes a newspaper column about raising a family that has been successful and has a great life.  After she gives birth she feels funny, which migrates to depression and psychosis.  Her ‘perfect husband’ tries to blow it off as exhaustion and Della has to step in and get her help for what is termed postpartum depression by the end of the book.
  • Della is our final main character.  I feel as if a great deal of the story revolves around her though it’s not really sold as such.  Della is working as a teacher while writing a book in her spare time.  She laments the fact that she cannot devote herself to her book full-time as she’s fearing being a ‘mid-list’ author and strives to be a money-making author.  Her husband is an amazing specimen of a man (he’s hot even in print!) that works as a freelance metal sculptor.  Together they have a daughter who seems pretty normal.  Though living the bohemian life without cell phones, a/c, money for an exterminator was cool when they were younger they now have a child who deserves more out of life.  Della also has a burning desire to have another child and is quickly approaching her 38th birthday.  She is tempted to leave her husband when she runs into an old flame, but in the true nature of Christian Fiction she thinks better and reconciles with her husband. 

There is a happy ending in the end, but it still seems unfinished.  The book is not long and it truly seems as if Ms. Hart got tired of writing and just decided to wrap it up quickly and end it.  I wanted more of the courtship of Roy and Anne.  I wanted a more in-depth look at Lish and her pregnancy and postpartum depression.  I also wanted more about how everything turned out in the end.  So much was left unfinished.  Roy and Anne aren’t married, Lish is still out of it, Della and her husband are reconciled but still taking care of Lish and their life is still on hold.  I needed more to be happy with it. 

I might read another book by Beth Webb Hart.  If it was free also.

Giveaway!

  • If you would like to read this book and don’t want to buy it, leave a comment.  On the first I will use random.org to choose a random winner.  You’ll have the book by the end of the month.  If you’re local to me, I’ll drop it off a lot sooner.  If I have to mail it, you have to wait until payday.  *Update!  Since there’s not much interest yet and I’m trying to plug this on a few more blogs I’m extending the giveaway to the end of September with a winner to be drawn October 4th (my birthday!) via random.org and to receive the book no later than October 31st (providing I get contact info no later than October 10th).  Good luck! 

**Disclaimer:  I received this book for free from Thomas Nelson Review.  I am not paid to review it good or bad.  I am only asked to give it an honest review, which I have done so.