Archive

Archive for March, 2012

Giveaway Winner: The Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor by Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga (US ONLY)

March 30, 2012 Leave a comment

Silhouettes of men and a girl in front of city skyline.The winner of a gently loved audiobook copy of Rise of the Governor by Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga courtesy of the publisher, MacMillan audio and determined by random.org is…….

Comment #4 Corey R!

Corey will be contacted for his shipping information today.  Thank you all for entering!

Book Review: The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood

March 26, 2012 5 comments

Line drawing of a woman.Summary:
Hopefully anyone who’s read The Odyssey remembers Odysseus’s long-suffering wife, Penelope, who waited years for his return from the Trojan War, all while raising their son and fending off suitors who were eating her out of house and home.  Here, Atwood turns the focus from Odysseus onto Penelope, who from the underworld of Hades tells us about her own life, interspersed with choruses by the 12 maids who were hung to death upon Odysseus’s return.

Review:
I’ve taken to loading an audiobook on my ipod for those frequent times when I either have to walk from a T stop or am crammed onto a train with literally no elbow-room to hold onto my kindle.  I was excited to see this on the shelf at my library, since I had decided rather spur of the moment to pick one up, and I do love Atwood.  Plus, this is only three discs long, which is good for my audiobook attention span.

For me the story ultimately fails, although I don’t blame Atwood for that.  The thing is, Penelope, to a modern woman, is kind of pathetic.  It’s not easy to make her into a heroine we can root for, the way we can root for Odysseus.  Ok, so he’s a womanizer and a liar, but he’s also brilliant and hilarious.  The kind of guy you want to be friends with, but don’t want to date.  Yet Penelope not only is married to him, but has never stood up to him.  Even when he’s been gone for years and years fighting in a war.  Atwood is a great writer, but that’s just not a situation you can fix.  I completely get Atwood’s fascination with Penelope’s story, not to mention the 12 maids.  I don’t think any woman can read The Odyssey and not wonder about it.  But it ultimately doesn’t hold up for a story.

Penelope comes across as a woman who lived in tough times to be a woman, yes, but who never does anything really to fight the status quo.  She can’t even bring herself to stand up to the elderly maid who takes the run of her household.  Plus, she willingly puts her maids into situations where they are likely to get raped (indeed, do get raped) and then doesn’t stand up for them when her wayward husband finally comes home.  Is it within character? Sure.  Is it something that holds up as the main focus of a story?  Nope.

I did enjoy Atwood’s modern take on the Greek chorus using the dead 12 maids.  I appreciate her choice to include a chorus in the book, as well as how she played with different ancient and modern music styles.  It even left me wishing the maids were the focus of the book instead of Penelope!  Of course, interspersing music between chapters is something I’ve seen Atwood do before in The Year of the Flood, and she’s very good at it.  It’s an Atwood style that works perfectly in this book.

So what does this all ultimately mean?  Atwood’s writing style is creative and pleasant as always, but the topic of the book just isn’t.  I think the constraints of who Penelope is from such an ancient story placed a sour note on Atwood’s work that normally isn’t there.  It’s an interesting exercise, but not one I found particularly enjoyable to read.  I was more interested in it as an academic exercise.  If you’re a fan of retellings of the classics, you’ll be intrigued by it.

3 out of 5 stars

Source: Public Library

Buy It

Friday Fun! (Holy Busyness Batman!)

March 23, 2012 3 comments

My lovely readers!  Boy am I ever glad I gave you guys the heads up that things would slow down around here for the next few months.  I’m not even sure how long it’s been since I posted a Friday Fun. A couple of weeks?

In any case, my new job is AWESOME, and I am so blissfully happy that after years of struggling through school and in a bad economy that I wound up with a job in the field and area of librarianship that I wanted in the city that I love.  I love my commute! I love my coworkers! I love my patrons! I love the view from my shared office!  I love that I HAVE an office!  I love that I’m getting to go to the Medical Library Association’s 2012 conference in Seattle!

But it is also a huge learning process and I find myself with a brain refusing anymore information by the time I hit the T at the end of the day.  This means that all three of my nonfiction reads I had started before working at my new library, as well as during the first week, have hit the wayside. Cannot. Do. It. I need memoirs and paranormal romance and swashbuckling and FICTIONAL STORYLINES FOR THE LOVE OF GOD.  I cannot read and attempt to comprehend things about evolution in a toxic world or why you should eat this and not that.  Nope.  Can’t do it.  At least not right now.  So, yes.  I’m going to attempt to struggle my way through the three nonfiction reads I had started with a chapter a day. Beyond that, no more.  I mean, I have to work on learning PHP for my new job.  One can only handle so much nonfiction in one day.  That said, I still want to do Diet for a New America, but I think I’m going to have to rework it somehow.  Maybe make it a challenge instead of a project.  That way I won’t feel bad if it takes me a while to get to the next book.  I still intend to finish, buuuut probably not by the end of 2012 *snort*

Speaking of diet and health, I have discovered ZUMBA and it is AWESOME.  I’ve always been a dancer from a very young age (before I got fat and unhealthy) and for some reason even though I’ve recovered my fitness, I was ignoring dance.  No more!  Zumba is basically dance aerobics only using Latin dance and a mix of Latin music and modern popular songs.  (I think to date my favorite routine has been the one we did to I’m Sexy and I Know It.  It involved showing off our guns).  Anywhooo I love the Latin dancing because it is all hip shaking, but it’s also a great class to go to once a week because long-term cardio is still what is really difficult for me, but the class and instructor are just so dang FUN that I am bound and determined to make it through.  And I do.  I just also have at least one point in every class where I am certain I am going to die.  Then we pretend to be roping a cow, and I suddenly am fine. ;-)

Happy weekends everyone!  Tomorrow is my first day as a Saturday librarian, and I am mad excited.  (Which seems to be my perpetual state of emotion nowadays).

Book Review: Trespasses: A Memoir by Lacy M. Johnson

March 21, 2012 1 comment

Barbed wire traveling through words.Summary:
Lacy grew up in Missouri to a traditional, poor farming family that never bothered to keep track of its European roots.  Through interviews with her family members and a series of personal vignettes, Lacy explores what it is to be white and poor in America, the farming community, and the odd in-between Missouri inhabits as not quite southern and not quite midwestern.

Review:
The concept behind this book is excellent.  The execution is discombobulated with a few gems at best, off-putting to the reader at worst.

I think what is most difficult about this book as a reader is that we jump around through time and situations with no guidance.  Who is Judith?  How is she related to Archie?  For that matter, how is she related to the author?  We have no real idea.  I’m not against the jumps around the family time-line as a method in contrast to the more traditional linear timeline, but the reader needs to know who we are reading about.  I honestly think an intro with a simple, straight-forward family tree would have helped immensely.  Instead we have to wait until later in the book to determine who these women are that the author is speaking about.  It leaves things confused.

Then there’s the narration style.  It jumps from “you are so and so” to third person to first person past to first person present without any real rhyme or reason.  I can appreciate the style of the individual vignettes.  Individually, they are well-written.  But assembled together into one single book where they are all supposed to tell a cohesive story, they are puzzling and off-putting.

The absolute strength of the work is when Lacy puts down her story-telling mantel and simply talks about the history of the terms “white trash, cracker,” what it is to grow up white trash, what it is to change class setting from poor to academic.  These were interesting and relatable.  I believe this is the author’s strong point and would encourage her to pursue this in future works.  It is certainly an experience that she is not alone in having in her lifetime.

Overall although the concept of this memoir is strong and unique, the method of time-jumping vignettes and constantly changing narration styles make for a confusing read.  I would recommend you browse a copy in a library or a bookstore if you are interested in the author’s writing style or one or two particular vignettes, but not venture beyond that.

2 out of 5 stars

Source: NetGalley

Buy It

Book Review: The Book of Lost Fragrances by M. J. Rose (Series, #4)

March 19, 2012 2 comments

Woman smelling a spilled fragrance.Summary:
Jac ran away from her family’s traditional perfumerie in Paris to pursue a career in mythology in her mother’s homeland of the USA.  This move was spurred on by her mother’s suicide, and Jac’s own subsequent loss of touch with reality.  Years of therapy later, all is well, but when Jac’s brother and current manager of the perfumerie goes missing, Jac must face up to her demons at home, as well as scenes in her own mind.  Are they delusions or past life memories?

Review:
I requested this on NetGalley without realizing it was part of a series, but it is evident each entry in the series is about different people whose lives intertwine in a minor way.  Thus, I was able to read this book without feeling that sense of disorientation that happens when you jump into the middle of a series.  I’m glad too, because I found the story an intriguingly different plot-line for a thriller.

Essentially, there are some pottery pieces that Robbie discovers in his home that may or may not have once held a scent that allows whoever smells it to remember their past lives.  A past life therapist wants these pottery pieces, Robbie wants to give them to the Dalia Lama, and the Chinese government wants to keep them out of the Dalai Lama’s hand in their on-going quest against Tibet.  It’s a good big world plot, but the overall focus is mostly on Jac, which is how I tend to prefer thrillers.  And Jac is a great character.  She is strong, intelligent, a caring sister.  She had a rough childhood, but still has her head on straight.  Her struggle with whether or not she had past lives ends up not being as important as the reader might at first think, which I also appreciated.  Jac’s character development is about accepting herself for who she is and not making selfish choices.  It is not at all the romance I thought at first it was going to be, and that is a good thing.

Rose evokes the settings of Paris and NYC with equal aptitude.  I must say I found myself craving an afternoon at the museum and some creperies when I was done with the book.  The perfumerie business and house are equally beautiful and easy to picture, but also the tunnels underneath Paris are evoked well.  Setting and characterization are strong points of Rose’s.

I did periodically feel the book moved too slow in the beginning.  Also, I was disappointed that people who were evil now were evil in past lives and the good were always good.  Similarly, only one person had a past life as a different gender.  I get it that Rose’s point is that one needs to know one’s past lives in order to fix your mistakes that you make over and over, but I think it’s a bit short-sighted to think that if reincarnation did exist it would be that simplistic.  Also, personally, I just don’t believe in soul mates, so having that as a strong theme in the book was rather eye-roll inducing.

Overall, this is a fun worldwide thriller with educated people at the center of it that includes thought-provoking themes like self-improvement and self-acceptance.  Fans of the modern, globe-spanning thriller will enjoy it, as well as anyone who has a love of Paris.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: NetGalley

Buy It

Previous Books In Series:
The Reincarnationist
The Memorist
The Hypnotist

Giveaway: The Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor by Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga (US ONLY)

March 14, 2012 5 comments

Silhouette of two men and a little girl in front of Atlanta skyline.I am super-excited to get to offer up my first giveaway of 2012 here at Opinions of a Wolf; this time for an AUDIOBOOK!!

There is one audiobook version of The Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor available courtesy of the totally awesome publisher MacMillan Audio!

What You’ll Win:  One audiobook copy (CD format) of The Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor by Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga, read by Fred Berman, listened to once by moi, your lovely reviewer.

How to Enter:  Leave a comment on this post with your email address or twitter name so I can contact the winner for his/her mailing address.

Who Can Enter: US ONLY

Contest Ends: March 27th. Two weeks from today!

This giveaway is now over! Thank you all for entering!

Book Review: The Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor by Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga (Series, #1)

March 13, 2012 2 comments

Silhouettes of two men and a girl standing against the Atlanta city skyine.Summary:
The first in a prequel trilogy that relates how the baddest villain of The Walking Dead’s zombie apocalypse came to be–not just how he came to rule Woodbury, but how he became an evil sociopath.

Review:
Wow. Just wow.  If I could be a good book blogger and just say that I would, but I can’t so I suppose I must attempt to put my love for this book into words.

First of all, it’s important to know that this is sort of a prequel to The Walking Dead graphic novels.  It’s the origin story of The Governor (aka one of the most evil comic book villains ever).  Only instead of sticking to his graphic novel format, Kirkman, with the assistance of Bonansinga, went with the written word.  Now, I was offered this book as an audiobook, and I have to say this really affected my reading of it.  The reader, Fred Berman, does an absolutely amazing job.  He has a natural standard American accent, but seamlessly slips into a Southern drawl when the characters speak.  Beyond this though he is able to bring the anguish and tensity to the survival scenes that is necessary without seeming melodramatic.  It reminded me of being read to by my own father when I was a little girl.  I found myself choosing to curl up with the audiobook over many other activities.  So.  I’m not sure if the experience is the same reading it yourself.  I do know that listening to the audiobook is a remarkable experience.

Now, this is a zombie apocalypse horror novel about an evil man.  It gets uncomfortable.  Kirkman and Bonansinga bring us inside the minds of men warped by situations and psychiatric problems alike.  It’s not pretty.  It makes you squirm.  But it’s supposed to.  Some reviewers have accused this book of being misogynistic because bad things seem to happen an awful lot to the female characters.  I have a couple of things to say about that.  First of all, hello, do you live in this world?  Because women have to survive a lot of bad shit.  Second, this is an apocalypse.  Think of it as a war zone.  Do women get molested, raped, murdered, treated as less strong and unequal?  Absolutely.  The book isn’t misogynistic.  It’s realistic about how a south torn apart by zombies would treat women.  The way to determine if a book in this sort of situation is misogynistic is to look at how the author treats the women.  Does he present them as hysterical, over-reacting?  Do they refuse to stand up for themselves?  I can unequivocally say that although horrible things happen to the women in this book, they fight for themselves.  It is therefore not misogynistic, but realistic.

Now one thing that probably a lot of people wonder is is the story predictable?  We already know who The Governor is and that he keeps his zombie daughter as a pet.  That would seem to remove the ability for the authors to surprise us at all.  I am happy to say that in spite of knowing the end result, this story kept me on the edge of my seat.  Some readers didn’t like all of the surprises and twists.  Personally, I feel that they brought the novel up a notch in both talent and enjoyability.

Overall, this is a wonderful addition to The Walking Dead canon.  Fans of the graphic novel series will not be disappointed, although fans of the tv show seem to be taken aback by it.  All I can say is that the books don’t pull any punches and are not for the squeamish.  If you don’t want to be challenged, stick to tv.  Everyone else should scoop this up as soon as possible.

5 out of 5 stars

Source: Copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review and a giveaway

Buy It

Book Review: Natural Brilliance: A Buddhist System for Uncovering Your Strengths and Letting Them Shine by Irini Rockwell

March 12, 2012 5 comments

White cover with a slowly assembled flower on it.Summary:
Utilizing the traditional Buddhist five wisdoms–presence, clarity, richness, passion, and action, Rockwell seeks to show readers their own personal strengths and possible weaknesses.  Rockwell then seeks to demonstrate how to bring out the other three to four wisdoms within your personality to achieve more balance.

Review:
Before I had a book blog, I read quite a bit of Buddhist literature.  My minor was Religious Studies, and I also had an interest in it from a psychiatric and personal perspective.  Certain aspects of Buddhism are used in modern psychiatric treatments, for instance.  In any case, this is not my first Buddhist read.  I am familiar with a lot of the terminology and ideas.  This book though was nearly impossible to follow.  Quite possibly the worst book on Buddhism I’ve ever come across.

First, there’s how Rockwell talks about the five wisdoms.  Instead of consistently calling them by either their English name, Sanskrit name, or a hyphenated version of the two like most Buddhist works do, Rockwell bafflingly switches back and forth between English and Sanskrit without any rhyme or reason.  Particularly in an ebook where it’s difficult to flip back to the earlier pages where the wisdoms were introduced, this makes it really hard to follow the author’s thought-process.

Similarly, random information is inserted but then not fully explained.  I wonder if in the print version these are set apart in boxes?  Not sure.  For instance, the section introducing the five wisdoms has a completely random blip about the colors Tibetan Buddhism associates with them inserted in the text between the fourth and fifth wisdoms.  It’s just jarring and odd.

Finally, I didn’t really learn anything of value from the book.  Rockwell talks at length about what a person who is mostly possessing the wisdom of passion might look, behave, and even dress like, but not much is discussed about how to put this knowledge to good use.  It’s almost as if Rockwell got so caught up in describing the wisdoms that he forgot to talk to us about how to put this knowledge to much use.  Besides, does it really help to know to label the person who is passionate as exhibiting the passion wisdom?  We already know instinctively what they are like and how to deal with them.  Labeling it doesn’t really help, does it?

Overall, I found this book to offer very little in a way of self-improvement or aid in dealing with people.  It is confusingly organized without much valuable information within it.  Although it is a readable book that is not at all offensive, it just doesn’t seem like reading it is worth the time.

2 out of 5 stars

Source: NetGalley

Buy It

Book Review: Dead Harvest by Chris F. Holm (Series, #1)

March 8, 2012 5 comments

Man shoving his hand into a person's chest against a blue background.Summary:
Sam sold his soul to the devil in the 1940s and ever since then he’s been hopping from body to body, possessing and utilizing them to perform his task–collect the souls of the dammed.  Although he can possess anyone, he prefers the recently dead.  His new assignment stops him dead in his tracks though when he touches the 17 year old girl’s soul, a girl who supposedly killed her mother, father, and brother in cold blood, and finds it untainted.  His refusal to collect her sends both angels and demons after him, eager to restore the balance, but Sam insists that collecting her soul will only bring about the Apocalypse.

Review:
I’m not sure why, but somewhere between my email from Angry Robot about this then upcoming book and actually reading it, I forgot what it was about and assumed from the title that it’s about zombies.  Um, not so much? Haha.  Actually, it is an urban fantasy film noir.  Instead of a detective we have a collector, who, a friend pointed out to me, is basically the same as Sam the Reaper on the tv show Reaper.  Our femme fatale is Lilith (you know, the first woman god made but she refused to be subservient to man so she got kicked out of the garden and went and hung out with demons.  I always liked her).  It all sounds super-cool, but I was left feeling very luke-warm about the whole thing.

First, there’s how Sam talks, which I get is supposed to come across as witty banter, but I myself didn’t find that amusing.  Perhaps I’m way too familiar with the classic works of film noir and to me this just didn’t measure up.  Perhaps I’m just a mismatch for it.  I feel like people with a slightly different sense of humor would enjoy it more, though.  Personally it just read as Sam trying too hard to sound suave, which I always find annoying.

My other big issue with the story is a couple of really unbelievable action sequences.  Ok, I get it that this is urban fantasy, but even within that we still need believability.  What do I mean by this?  Well, if something huge happens that affects the mortals, there should be discussion of how the immortals cover it up or deal with the fall-out.  This doesn’t really happen in this book.  One sequence in particular that bugged me involved Sam and the 17 year old hijacking a helicopter, flying it all over NYC, then crashing it in a park AND THEY GET AWAY.  Does anyone believe this could actually happen in a post 9/11 world unless some sort of otherworldly shielding was going on?  I don’t think so.  It was at this point that I knew the book was just not gonna work for me.

Does this mean that I think it’s a badly written book?  No.  It’s an interesting twist on urban fantasy and film noir simultaneously.  The characters are interesting, and the plot wraps-up fairly well.  I personally found it difficult to get into and found some sequences simply too ridiculous to believe.  However, I do think other people might enjoy it more, perhaps someone who has an intense love for urban fantasy and doesn’t mind ridiculous situations.

3 out of 5 stars

Source: Kindle copy from publisher in exchange for my honest review

Buy It

Book Review: The Walking Dead, Book Seven by Robert Kirkman (Series, #7) (Graphic Novel)

March 7, 2012 1 comment

Man in yellow surrounded by zombies.Summary:
The people at the settlement quickly discover that the new group headed by Rick has a lot more knowledge, experience, and ability with the zombies than they themselves do.  But they also snap easily.  Is their twitchiness warranted or not?

Review:
I was pleasantly surprised by the direction this entry in the series went.  I was fully expecting the Rick group to be totally violent and messed up and expelled from the settlement.  Instead we see that they can sometimes over-react, but still have their humanity intact and actually have a smart level of caution.  This allows for the story within the settlement to continue on, further taking us in a fresh direction.

I am unhappy with the direction the Glenn/Maggie relationship has taken.  I don’t think their original relationship was just about having hot hot sex in the prison like both characters insinuate, and I also don’t like that Maggie is now a big ball of tears while Glenn constantly traipses off.  These were a good couple!  No reason to ruin them, agh!  Plus, how often to do we get a healthy Asian Male/White Female relationship in books?  Approximately never?  Can we please just leave Maggie/Glenn alone?  *sighs*  However, I am happy that Maggie eventually stands up to Rick in protecting Sophia, so I will withhold judgment until the next installment.

What everyone is hoping for, of course, is an excellent zombie scene, and this entry delivers.  We have people crossing on a rope over a zombie hoard, the hoard invading the camp, and an epic fight off the zombies scene.  These all have the excellent artwork we’ve come to expect.

The ending of the book had a great message and left me hungry for more. (haha)  In fact I just may have to subscribe to the comics. *twitch*

Overall, this is a great entry in the series that takes the story on an unexpected twist plus has pages and pages of zombies for fans to drool over.

5 out of 5 stars

Buy It

Previous Books in Series:
The Walking Dead, Book One (review)
The Walking Dead, Book Two (review)
The Walking Dead, Book Three (review)
The Walking Dead, Book Four (review)
The Walking Dead, Book Five (review)
The Walking Dead, Book Six (review)

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,047 other followers