“The Limpet Syndrome” by Tony Moyle

Limpet

asteriaiconOur little book blog received a copy of this book as a request to read and provide a review. The plot sounded intriguing, though admittedly not up my alley, but I thought I would give it a whirl.

The story opens with our main character, John Hewson, dying in a car accident. His soul is sent to limbo, as it is not negatively charged (going to hell), or positively charged (going to heaven), and therefore is neutral, and needs to be assessed. John’s soul enters a vessol, a body which is designed to hold a soul, and is taken to an area for destination determination. It is decided that his soul belongs in hell, and he is taken on a tour of hell to illustrate its different layers. Hell does not work the way we have been taught. It has ten layers, much to the description of Dante’s Inferno, however, the highest level is not for the common man. This level is reserved for the worst of the worst, the most evil of souls, as they are closest to Satan’s true form, and here the soul is treated like royalty. Level one then is for the most common person, a level for those who are not overly bad, and here they suffer tremendous torture, a payment for living a mediocre existence, not being truly bad or truly good. The soul here is tortured so extensively that it becomes meaningless, and it sent back into our universe to be reincarnated.

John is given a choice. His soul can either enter hell where he will exist on the first or second levels facing unbearable torture, or find a soul that has escaped the soul catcher, and bring it back for judgement. In order to do this, John’s soul will have to possess a living body, and use that body to find a soul that can take on any form human or animal. It is an extremely difficult task, yet John makes the ultimate decision to try to find this lost soul or risk damnation. If he succeeds, he will have paid his debt to Satan, and his soul can be released to heaven. If he fails and the soul does not come through the soul catcher as it is supposed to, it could mean the end of the universe.

The missing soul is that of Sandy Logan. Sandy is a man who works for the Ministry of Homeland Security in London, England. He is also a member of J.A.W.S, Justice for Animals, Whatever Species. Sandy found out about different laboratories that were testing on animals, sets the animals free, and bombs the buildings. At his latest target, the Tavistock Institute, he find a slew of pigeons being tested on, and attempts to free them. In the process of gathering the birds, he finds out that they are being tested with a drug called Emorfed by none other than his own Prime Minister. Emorfed is designed to take away a person’s desires, be it alcohol, drugs, sex…you name it. The Prime Minister is planning on releasing the drug into the water supply of the city, turning everyone into very complacent individuals. The plan goes awry though when Sandy’s nitwit friend accidentally sets the bomb too soon, and ends up killing themselves and the pigeons.

John’s soul is released through the soul catcher back into the universe, and he ends up possessing a rock star named Nash Stevens, a man who is heavily into drugs, sex, and booze. He has to convince Nash to help him accomplish the impossible, at whatever the cost.

I found it to be a very interesting concept. It was fascinating how Moyle wrote the story in a way which married science and religion when it comes to the idea of heaven and hell. As an example, the demons in hell are made up of the dust that was created from the Big Bang. He even discusses wormholes and their role in delivering souls where they need to go. For me, it was especially thought provoking to read about where souls go, particularly for non-believers. I am a non-religious person, preferring the scientific mentality, so to read how my soul would go to hell and be tortured extensively purely for being a non-believer, no matter how much good I do in life, was rather disheartening.

I found the story hard to get into at first. It is a bit sci-fi, and religious, which are areas I have a hard time wrapping my head around.  I was afraid that the government conspiracy areas would be the hardest to read, and ended up finding them to be the easiest. Perhaps that is due to the fact that British government is structured so similarly to that of Canada. For me, the religion parts were definitely the hardest to really grasp, not that they were written poorly, I just have a hard time really understanding religion and all that it entails. My only real gripe about the writing was the use of “whilst”. I found it used too often, but then again, the author is British and I am not overly familiar with their sentence structuring with regards to that. Perhaps they tend to use “whilst” more often, where we would use “while”. I found a few grammatical and word errors, be instead of we, things like that, but it didn’t take away from the story at all.

I did find the ending very confusing, and still cannot really grasp what happened.

***SPOILER ALERT*** I was really good with the story right up until John tries to bring Sandy’s soul back through limbo. Then I just got totally lost and had no idea what happened to Sandy or even John.  Once I sunk my teeth into the story I really enjoyed it, so to not understand the ending was deeply unsatisfying for me. I am not sure if this is meant to have a sequel which might answer that question?

At any rate, overall I did enjoy the book. I liked the science and religion meeting on common grounds instead of it having to be a battle of one or the other. I liked the irony of what happens to Sandy’s soul, the entity in which it possessed. Actually that part of the story I found rather humorous. I am always up for a good conspiracy, and this one was nice and easy to follow (sometimes they can get convoluted and hard to follow). Overall it was a good read, one I would definitely recommend if only I could understand the ending!

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“Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter” by Seth Grahame-Smith

LincolnVampire

artemisiconThe story behind me getting this book is actually kind of funny. Back when the movie came out (yes, that horrible thing), there was a friend of mine who used to go to every horror movie with me so naturally Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter was a thing we had to go see. Not going to lie, I came out of the movie spitting mad. It felt like they had written two completely different movies, threw the scripts together, and whatever stuck together became the movie (in fact, I think Batman V Superman was made the same way). So, following that, for my birthday, my friend bought me the book.

It was a gift looked at with both horror and amusement.

The book has been on my shelf for roughly 5 years. Unopened. Glared at. Considered. But in the end, left alone and unread.

Until just this past weekend. I finished up Nightseer and was looking for something else to read before I jump into the next Cassandra Clare or Nora Roberts book that I have borrowed, and my eyes fell upon this book. I hummed and hawed, and decided, why the hell not?

To my surprise, it’s actually a damn good book!

Being Canadian, I don’t have a really good grasp of American politics, and a spotty memory of American History (I excelled at art and English, not history). Even with my bare knowledge, I have a feeling Lincoln being a Vampire Hunter is fiction. Just saying. But even though there is a lot of fiction throughout the book, I think a fair bit of it is threaded with Lincoln’s actual life. If it is, he was a remarkable man, enough that I am kind of curious to pick up a biography on him. That’s saying a lot because I hate non-fiction.

Now, before I get too far ahead of myself, the way the book is written, and the way it opens, actually makes the book more interesting. Grahame-Smith is writing as if HE was approached by a Vampire and given a series of journals written by Abraham Lincoln himself, and told to write a book. At first I figured it was a sort of “interview with the vampire” kind of set up, which is interesting in itself. It more or less puts meaning behind the book being written, and adds a different element to it. It wasn’t until the end of the prologue that you see it signed BY Seth Grahame-Smith. I had a moment of panic, thinking it was going to be an author insertion like Clive Cussler, and bring the book down.

Once again, I was wrong. The book is written in an odd narrative with journal excerpts thrown in. Where paraphrasing is the best, Grahame-Smith’s words are used, but where Lincoln tells it best, the book is written as a “journal clipping”. I find this style doesn’t draw away from the story like I was afraid it would. Sometimes I have to re-read because I forget who is talking at the moment, but with the way it’s done it gives you the extra details in spots that are needed, and the briefness when you don’t need to know about a years worth of nothing happening.

The story starts when Lincoln was a child, and carries on through his entire life. That sounds like it would be boring, and I think in a regular biography, it would be dry as dust, but with the supernatural element threaded though, it keeps it interesting. Lincoln finds out about Vampires as a child, after his mother dies of mysterious circumstances, and his father, in a drunken stupor, tells Lincoln the truth. Lincoln’s grandfather was killed by a Vampire, not a pack if “Indians” like his father described, and his mother’s death wasn’t mysterious, it was caused by the ingestion of a small amount of Vampire blood. The price for Lincoln Sr. not paying back his debts. From then on Lincoln swore to rid America of Vampires.

When he is older, he uses looking for work, and the odd jobs he procures to hunt Vampires. The way Grahame-Smith blends the fantastical with historical actually works! It didn’t feel like two separate stories haphazardly thrown together, it felt like it could be true.

Even when Lincoln started to run for office and tried to get away from Vampire hunting, the story didn’t feel thrown together (this is really where the movie fell apart). It’s an interesting and fun look at American History, and Abraham Lincoln. Like I said, Vampire Hunting aside, if this book has any accuracy into the life he led, Lincoln was an incredible man.

I never thought I would be recommending this book, but I am. It’s actually really interesting.

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“Nightseer” by Laurell K Hamilton

Nightseer

artemisiconI’ve been a Hamilton fan for many, many years, long before I started working at the book store. I’ve probably talked about this in my Anita Blake review, but even I knew nothing about this book. It was actually only a short while ago that I learned of this book, but didn’t know it was actually in publish any more. My best friend found a copy, the LAST copy, in a store she used to work in and bought it for me for my birthday.

Laurell K Hamilton’s debut novel. Originally published in 1992, a year before she published her first Anita Blake Vampire Hunter novel.

This novel is written in a very different style to what we are familiar with. It is written in 3rd person point of view, instead of being written through her characters, and it is a fantasy novel.

Reading this novel was interesting because you can see some influences for Anita Blake, and I also got to read one of my favorite authors before she hit it big.

Now, before I get into it, the book is NOT bad. I actually rather liked it, it was very interesting. But you could tell it was some of her first work, and still trying to figure out what style of writing was her strongest.

She always starts straight into a story, very heavily focused on her main protagonist. Usually that works, but because this is a fantasy based novel where she is world building, all it really did was confuse me. She made references to things and never really explained, and brought up lore and never really elaborated. Normally, that is fine because shortly after more information is added to elaborate on what was brought up. Instead more and more information is thrown at you without really explaining anything. Because of this, I felt like I was missing an entire book.

In her other series, there is no need for world building because it takes place in modern times in a real city. So she can focus heavily on plot and characters. When she does the same method in a world she is building, it leaves a lot of holes. Keleios is a rather vivid character that is well developed, but even with that, because there isn’t a lot of explanation to the world, certain traits don’t mean much. Half-elf princess, Herb-witch, Master; the magic system isn’t explained in more than handful of sentences, and the elves are known simply in the aspect that they’re there.

This, to me, drew away from the story because I was confused all of the time. But the plot was still well developed. A witch tortured and killed Keleios’ mother, and Keleios spent her life trying to seek revenge. There is another witch who apprenticed under the one who killed Keleios’ mother, who also spends her time trying to kill Keleios. Because of how confusing the magic system is, the plot lines surrounding a lot of the magic isn’t clear. Keleios is a prophet who prophesizes the falling of the Keep and the destruction of the library. She was good enough to be a Master, but in her 20’s, another style of magic emerged (which should have been impossible) and because she was brand new with it, the council stripped her of her Master’s title. This puts her in close proximity to the other witch trying to kill her.

All in all, it was a rather interesting story. There were a few irks I had that are basically just my personal preference (like when a character says “can you cast major healing?” I always expect the other character to respond “Let me roll this D20 and check!”), and there were some things in the story that I wished were explained in greater detail (I turned to my boyfriend and went “there are f*$%ing dragons in this story!!”).

I think this story would be really awesome if Hamilton rewrote it in her current style. It may help with the world building, and with her current knowledge of writing, make the story flow smoother and better.

Otherwise, fantasy fans might find this interesting, and I think this would be really interesting for fellow fans of Laurell K Hamilton to see where she started, and how far she has come and how her style changed so drastically in only a year!

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“Lady Midnight” by Cassandra Clare

LadyMidnightstage

artemisiconWe are still trying to get the house set up so I PROMISE soon I will go back to staged photo’s! Our kitchen table is kind of buried under things we can’t find room for yet.

This was another series that a friend of mine let me borrow. I’ve read most of Cassandra Clare’s Shadowhunter books (not to be confused with that trainwreck of a TV show) so this series was naturally the next in line. It CAN be read without previous knowledge of the other books, but there is a lot of the background stories and history that will not be understood. I haven’t finished the Mortal Instruments book series (I think I’m shy one book) and because of that there are a lot of references that I didn’t get. And a lot of spoilers that made me want to scream. This series also references The Infernal Devices, but not quite as heavily because of the hundred or so years difference. But characters are brought up from that series.

Book history aside, this story was exactly what I was expecting when diving back into Clare’s world of Shadowhunters. Shadowhunter children come across a problem only they can fix without help from the Clave (Shadowhunter governing body) and they delve further into downworlder issues to resolve their initial problem. That’s not saying it’s not a good story, it’s just a proven formula that works for her. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.

Main character Emma Carstairs (descendant from one of the main characters from Infernal Devices) is trying to figure out who actually murdered her parents during the Dark War (which I believe happened in the last book of the Mortal Instruments) instead of the Clave approved reason. This series and the last Mortal Instruments is about 5 years apart, so instead of 12, Emma is now 17. She was taken in by her Parabatai’s (bonded best friends and partners) family and grew up with them.

What sparked her new infatuation with her parents murders were a new group of identical murders. Half-fae and normal people were being drowned on dry-land and covered in a strange language no one could identify.

Spiraling out of control Emma and the Blackthorns find themselves hiding from the Clave, illegally working for the faeries (more like blackmailed by), and trying to stop the next set of murders.

All-in-all, it is an interesting read. Cassandra Clare’s strengths aren’t in her story telling (albeit, she is getting better at it), they are in her characters. She has a way of writing people to be endearing and real. I found myself burning through her other series just to make sure the characters were going to be okay. And to this day, many of her characters have never left me. Even Lady Midnight carries on her endearing characters trait. You feel Emma’s pain and her need to be better than everyone else, Julian’s stress and panic over his family and how he has done everything in his power to keep them together, Mark’s fear and pain on being taken from his family when they were infants and being returned to teenagers and trying to find his place in them when he no longer knows how to be the big brother. I stick with her books because of her characters.

Shadowhunter world is different from the world we know, they are true bred angelic warriors, but because of their separation from our world, many issues have not translated. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t there. Clare always has gay characters, and it has become normal place, much the way everyone else writes heterosexual relationships. But I was impressed when she added in a characters that seemed to be on the autistic spectrum. My nephew is autistic so I have done research to understand it better, and from what I read, I could easily identify Clare’s character as on the spectrum. That was interesting because not many books that I’ve read (not saying there aren’t any) or come across have autistic characters. But because the Shadowhunters don’t have words for many mental health issues, she never names it directly and instead Julian is forced to protect his brother from the Clave because they would have considered him a failure as a Shadowhunter, not as someone who simply sees the world differently. Another issue that was brought up was Dementia and/or Schizophrenia. I had initially through it was dementia, but through Julian’s point of view it started to sound more like Schizophrenia. Once again, the Shadowhunters had a different name for it and Julian had to do what he could to protect his Uncle from being locked away. But it was still interesting to see these two issues in a YA novel. There is no reason these things should be shied from because they are part of our world, and more people need to understand them. It’s nice to see YA authors like Clare and Riordan that are writing in more mental health and LGBTAQQ issues. They are bringing awareness and combating hate. And that alone is amazing.

Soapbox aside, it is a good book, and I look forward to the rest of the series.

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News

artemisiconI will be moving in a few days,  and I’m not completely sure when the internet will be hooked up at the new place. I hope it will be relatively quick, but we all know how internet companies work. If there are no reviews next Thursday, don’t worry, it’s probably just because I have no internet. We shouldn’t be more than a few days without, so we will be back the week after!

We are also trying to build the audience to our blog because we would love to start doing things for our readers! So if you really enjoy some of our reviews, please share them!

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“Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness” by Susannah Cahalan

Brain

asteriaiconThis is another book where I had seen a review in a magazine and found it rather intriguing. When we finally got a copy in the book store, I jumped at the chance to read it. The book is a sad story, which had to be pieced together from Cahalan’s family, her friends, and her physician’s accounts, as well as hospital records.

Susannah Cahalan was 24 at the time she got sick. She was in a new relationship, with a promising career as a newspaper journalist ahead. Then one day, she woke up in a hospital room, strapped to a bed, deemed psychotic and violent, and had no memory of what happened to her.

It started with a bed bug bite, which is still unclear as to whether it ever really existed. She started having seizures, and started to behave peculiarly. She started demanding things, began having hallucinations, and became paranoid.  Her boyfriend and family struggled with how to help her, since they had no understanding of what was happening to her. She saw physicians and all thought that she partied too much and just needed to settle down, or they thought that she was having a mental break. She was labelled as psychotic, bipolar, or schizophrenic. As her illness progressed, her psychotic episodes got increasingly worse, and increasingly more frequent, until one day she was hospitalized and strapped to a bed for her safety. She most certainly would have died, had it not been for one physician who had recognized her symptoms as a relatively unknown disorder.

Cahalan has Anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis, a rare disorder where the patient’s body is incapable of regulating itself. The patient first begins showing bizarre psychotic behaviours and wild mood swings, which leads to incredible sensitivity to light and sound, eventually leading to catatonia, and ultimately death. She was very fortunate to find a physician who was able to recognize the symptoms and save her life.

For me, this story struck home. My dad had been sick with a physiological disease, which was misdiagnosed as a number of mental illnesses before one physician finally realized what it was, all because it was something rare and relatively unheard of. Cahalan’s main agenda with writing her story is to raise awareness of her illness, which I can fully appreciate. Maybe it can help another person escape the suffering she had to go through.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was very open and honest, and it shed light on just how little we know about the human body. She raises some interesting questions about mental illness, how we treat people with mental health issues, and how they are viewed. Perhaps in some instances these people are suffering from a physiological issue, rather than just a mental one. Cahalan was fortunate to survive, though she is not completely unscathed by her ordeal. I liked that she didn’t paint herself as perfect, in fact she didn’t really establish a base line of what her personality was before she got sick. She pieced her illness progression through various stories and points of view so she could understand what truly happened to her and now is merely trying to get her life back on track.

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“The coldest girl in Coldtown” by Holly Black

ColdestGirl

artemisiconSince we are in the middle of moving, all our books are packed away, so I’m reliant on the books people have let me borrow. This book was one of them. Last time I went to visit our friends, she loaded me down with a huge stack of books. Literally my night-table and reading shelf are loaded with her books. The other books she gave me are part of different series, so I wanted to start this one because it was the only one I had.

I’ve never read Holly black, but through working in the book store, I know OF her. I never had any ambition to pick up her stuff, which is what’s nice about having friends who read completely different authors and genres than you do. I knew nothing about this book, I wouldn’t even read the synopsis of it. I wanted to go in completely blind. Knowing my friend, I knew the book should have had some kind of supernatural twist, but I wasn’t 100% sure.

That leads me to the actual book …which starts out with an absolute bang as our main character Tana wakes up hung-over in a bathtub. Typical teen party story, but when she went out into the house and found everyone dead, that’s when I was hooked. In this story vampires are a thing, and to stay alive, when the sun goes down people lock themselves in. But at the party someone had accidentally left a window open. As Tana tries to get out of the locked-down house she remembers another similar crime where after murdering everyone, the vampires laid with the corpses to await the following night. This created an awesome sense of panic because Tana was alone in a house of dead people, which could also potentially contain the creatures that killed them all. After finding a boy still alive (and infected) she hears a door deep in the house open. Then it was a race to save herself, the boy, and another vampire left chained up in the corner of the room.

The thing about this book was I could look past the obvious stereotypical teen writing, and actually enjoy the over-all story. It was blatantly obvious that Tana would fall for the teenage vampire boy who was only ever described with attractive pronouns and some kind of jewels for eyes. Even though the romance made no sense, I could look past it because it wasn’t detrimental to the plot. It was just there. Even the love triangle I was expecting wasn’t really there.

What kept me hooked in the story was the lore. A vampire, essentially on a bender, infected hundreds of people, and they in turn infected thousands. The virus spread so quickly it started showing up over seas. The virus only turns into vampirism if the person drinks human blood, if they manage to fight through the “Cold” they can sweat it out in 88 days. Because of human rights, instead of killing off everyone, they quarantined towns with the biggest vampire break outs and called them “Coldtowns”. Vampires became internet stars by showing live feeds from inside Coldtown and their eternal parties. At the same time, Vampire Bounty Hunter shows started playing on regular TV of people hunting the vampires that are outside of Coldtown and murdering innocents.

I’ve read a lot of vampire books throughout my life and they all have a different take on what would happen if vampires were real. This idea I really like. With everything that has happened through history (and sadly, today) the mass reaction to fear seems to be a concentration camp; to lock away what scares them.

People who even THINK they could be infected are asked to sign themselves into the Coldtowns, and if they are not infected, they can hire a bounty hunter to bring in a Vampire to trade for a Marker to let the human out. Humans can also sign themselves in if they want, because some people become so obsessed with the Vampire lifestyle that they want to turn away from their normal lives.

The plot, the lore, and even the main character are all super interesting and well done, if you can look past some typical teen writing, it’s actually a relatively good book. It’s an easy read, very quick, but even the way she writes is interesting. The chapters alternate through the characters to reveal more of their history and the history of their world. If you’re a YA reader, and enjoy vampire stories, this is definitely a good one.

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