Twitter Issue

artemisiconJust making a quick post to let everyone who follows us on twitter know that we have been blocked out of our twitter account. I filed a report, but they don’t respond to individual cases so I have no idea how long it will take until this is resolved. I am incredibly sorry about all of this!

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“City of the Lost” bu Kelley Armstrong

cityofthelost

asteriaiconI have always been a fan of Kelley Armstrong.  I first came across one of her novels from her Otherworld series as something to read on a long bus ride home, and have stayed loyal to her since. I liked the fact that she was a Canadian author (Ontarian even!) and found she was able to write a rather strong female lead character, one who is not without flaws. I will admit, though, that I do find her writing somewhat juvenile in the sense it is always a quick easy read, no real big words or big stretches in thought, but sometimes that is exactly what I am in the mood for.

This particular book is not a part of the Otherworld series, and has no magic at all. This is the first novel in her latest adult series, and this time she left the supernatural behind. This is more of a psychological thriller, utilizing people’s fears of isolation, the unknown, and the creepy dark woods.

Casey Duncan is a homicide detective, who also happens to be a murderer. She killed her jerk of an ex-boyfriend, who really had it coming to him, but she was never arrested for it. Casey and her best friend Diana move regularly, never staying in a city for too long. You see, Diana is no stranger to jerks either, and has a terribly abusive ex-husband, who keeps hunting her down, and uses his cushy law background to make her life a living hell.

When Diana’s ex finds them again he brutally beats her, and Casey is ready to drop everything to move her friend to safety. That is when Diana mentions a town she has heard whispers about, a town for people like her to flee for safety, and start her life over with a new identity. Rockton is a town full of people with a past, located way up in Northern Canada. It is fully isolated, no television, no internet, no cell phones, barely any electricity. It is surrounded by woods full of wild animals and wild people; people who have not been able to handle living in the small Rockton community.

There is an application process in order to get into Rockton, a vetting process to ensure that you qualify, that you are able to bring a valuable skill to the community, and are someone who can leave your entire life behind. Diana qualifies, however Casey doesn’t. That vetting process is very thorough, and the council knows that she has killed someone, making her a bad fit. No one wants a murderer in a small town of people with secrets to hide. But, as it turns out, Rockton already has a murderer, and Sheriff Eric Dalton needs the skill of a homicide detective to solve the murder. Casey’s skills are needed, but only on a temporary basis, so she is accepted for only a short period of time. Once Casey gets there though, she finds the problem is bigger than her or Sheriff Dalton realized.

No story is complete without a romance, and Armstrong writes her romance much the same in most of her books. If I had to state a weakness in the story for me, this was it. It is always woman meets flawed man, woman can’t stand man, woman gets in terrible danger and saved by man, woman falls in love with man. It is always the same. Still, I liked the character of Eric, even if I found the romance a little dull and somewhat unbelievable. I am more in it for the psychological thriller aspect anyway so I can let this slide.

Now Casey is in a small remote town with no way out, a murderer on the loose, no way to get outside help (hard anyway to get help in a town that isn’t supposed to exist), and surrounded by scary things in the woods. Casey has to use her wits and detective skills to solve the crimes in a town full of could-be killers.  For me, that is what drives the novel. I NEED to know who the killer is, I NEED the satisfaction of a solved crime, and Armstrong is able to pull me along through the novel to a satisfying end. I read too many mystery novels and watch too much Criminal Minds that I can usually guess the killer way before the end of the book. But Armstrong kept me guessing, and in the end I had no idea how it was all going to pan out.

Not going to lie, I have already put a hold on the second book in the series at the library! If you like mystery books, and want something quick to read, give Armstrong a try. If supernatural mystery is more of your thing, try her Cainsville series. Either way, don’t miss out on a good Canadian female author.

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“Juliet’s Answer” by Glenn Dixon

JulietsAnswer

asteriaiconI listen to a podcast weekly regarding books, and one of the big topics they routinely discuss is diversity in books and “seeing” ourselves in the characters. In other words if you are white you see characters being white, if you are female you see the characters being female. I always thought I was rather well read and able to separate myself from the characters and writers. This book proved me so very wrong! I had seen the cover of this book at the book store and read the synopsis quickly and made assumptions based on them. I started reading this book thinking that it was written by a woman and that it was a fictitious tale. I was about 30 pages in before I realized how wrong I was.

Juliet’s Answer is a true story written by a Canadian man who travels to Verona, Italy. His goal is to try to understand love. You see, he has been in love with his best friend Claire for many years, and while they are very close, she has not shown the same feelings towards him. Dixon wants to understand why, and learn what he can do to sway her to love him romantically. He goes to the Club di Giulietta, where a handful of volunteers respond to the thousands upon thousands of letters they receive. People all over the world write their tales of woe to Juliet, history’s most famous subject of love, and ask for her guidance.  All of these letters arrive at a beautiful red mailbox outside of the house that Juliet is believed to have lived, and the volunteers take over their care, respond in kind, and mail their responses. Glenn volunteers to act as one of Juliet’s secretaries, answering letters received from all over the world, and from all age groups, all the while trying to understand love himself. He even writes a letter himself to Juliet, hoping to find a way to convince Claire to love him.  At first Dixon struggles to answer the letters; after all how can he answer their questions of love when he is there to learn about love himself. He gradually becomes more confident in his answers, and he learns that people the world over are all looking for the same thing. They all want to be loved and accepted. It’s universal.

The story is told in chapters that alternate from his time in Verona to his time in the classroom, where he teaches Shakespeare’s most infamous play: Romeo and Juliet. And I have to tell you, he seems like a fabulous teacher! He seems to be so engaged with his students, trying to find a way to bring Shakespeare into our time, to allow the students to truly understand what is being conveyed. If I had a teacher like him in high school teaching Romeo and Juliet, I might have gotten more out of it, and appreciated it more. Sure, we watched the Leonardo DiCaprio version of the movie, which was fun in its own way, but I can’t say I really understood Shakespeare the way Dixon’s kids will now from his teachings. He also throws in discussions of love in terms of science, which I found really interesting!

The book was a nice and easy read, but I learned so much about Romeo and Juliet, both as a play, but also that they may not be as fictitious as we think, there is evidence to suggest that they were real people. And I did love the fact he had pictures in the book (how I figured out this was a true story!), from his time in Verona.  Yet at times I found myself very frustrated with Dixon. I know how hard it is to love someone that doesn’t love you back, but sooner or later you have to come to terms with this and move on to someone who truly deserves you. Still, it was hard to read about Dixon writing a letter to try to sway Claire, and his plans to woo her to him, which all came crashing down around him. I was also slightly disappointed in his actions at the end regarding his friendship with Claire; I get it, I just didn’t think it had to be the way it turned out. I will let you read the book to determine whether Dixon gets his happily ever after or not.

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“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: Original Screenplay” by JK Rowling

FantasticBeasts

artemisiconI wasn’t going to review this, and because of that, I gave the book back before taking a picture. And today I was thinking about what book to do, and thought, maybe I will write about this one.

I’m not saying I wasn’t going to write about it because it was bad, on the contrary, it was really good. I wasn’t going to do it because it was a published screenplay.

I think by now, anyone reading this review has seen the movie. If you haven’t, and you were planning on it, you might not want to read this.

The thing that I found really interesting about this book, is that I think it’s published on the assumption that those reading it have seen the movie. I think without that background, this would be a really confusing read. Settings are in a blurb at the beginning of a scene, but in minor detail. Nothing is given in great detail, it’s mostly just enough to give the rest of the staff a rough idea of what they’re aiming for. So, as a reader, and not the crew, it’s a very odd experience reading it. I think there were a few extra scenes in the screenplay that didn’t end up in the movie, but there were also parts that were given in greater detail. So, even though I saw the movie, reading the scene made me go “ooooooh!” sometimes. Even relationships seemed more explained so the actors knew what to portray, so it was fun seeing exactly what they were supposed to be doing.

Aside from that, I can’t really talk on the plot/style/etc without directly comparing the movie because the book is technically, for all intensive purposes, in point form. But that doesn’t make it less of a good read. I blew through the book in 2 days, but that’s standard typical for me. And there is beautiful artwork throughout the books of all the fantastic beasts. For myself, I think reading the screenplay enriched the movie, because it explains things that the movie might have skimmed over and since it leaves out all the decorative words of standard novels, you see things and places for what they are.

It follows the movie exactly (obviously) from Newt traveling to New York, the Niffler getting loose, meeting Jacob (A no-maj), the second Salem group, attacks from an invisible creature, and so on. So naturally, the plot was well done, and an amazing introduction back into the World of Harry Potter.

If you’re a Harry Potter fan, I think this would be a worthwhile book! If not a fan, or just have a passing interest, there may not be anything in this book for you (unless you are interested in screenplays, because this leaves in all the filming lingo).

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“Jane Two” by Sean Patrick Flanery

JaneTwo

artemisiconI knew about this book long before it was published. I am a big fan of Sean Patrick Flanery, have been for many, many years (thanks to my mother). So when he started talking about it, I let it be known that I wanted that book! A few weeks ago, I wasn’t having the greatest of days, so when my boyfriend came home he quietly walked up behind me and placed ‘Jane Two’ on the desk beside me. Bad day INSTANTLY better.

Readers, find yourself a partner who surprises you with books on a bad day instead of flowers (even though flowers are a nice gesture).

Even though I’m a fan, I made sure to keep an unbiased mind about it. It wasn’t necessary, I fell in love with the book within the first few sentences.

I’ve met Flanery a few times (the second time he actually carded me because he didn’t believe my first name is Shadow), and I sat in at a Q&A …so these pages reflect the wonderful and charming (and utterly hilarious) man that I have had the fortune of meeting.

The book is based on his life (but several things are changed for everyone’s peace of mind, and also landed this book in the fiction section instead). The book is a romance wrapped up in the tale of a young man growing up. Now, we all know my outlook on romance, but this book is nothing like that. Our protagonist, Mickey, notices a beautiful young girl across the ditch behind his house, jumping on her trampoline with her black-brown hair floating up behind her. The entire book follows his trials to see her, and be noticed by her.

To most, that may sound boring as all hell. And I think written differently it may have been. This book is written as the adult version of Mickey talking about his memories. So instead of a tale about a boy and a girl, we get to see everything Mickey thought and felt, and his elder recollections and realizations (they say hindsight is 20/20). Everyone looks back at their lives and thinks “what if” and “if only”; those feelings are wrapped up in the tale of a boy and a girl.

Because this is told as a memory, there are a few things that are completely different from a standard novel. I think these differences let the story rely more heavily on emotion. Not only the emotions Mickey was feeling at the time, but how he felt while retelling it, and the emotions these elicit from the readers. I’m going to do my best relate this, but I’m afraid I won’t do it justice. So please bear with me.

Looking back in our own memories, I know for myself, memories are distorted with time and heavily influenced by how we felt during …but most importantly, odd things stick out in those memories. I would have been no more than 6 or 7 the last time I was there, but I can remember exactly the smell of the back of the bakery my mother worked in, and I remember the woman who nicknamed me “bolo-ga-na” because I pronounced it funny around her once.  This kind of memory recollection seems to be what spurs the story. The city, buildings, and surroundings aren’t in detail like most novels because these things aren’t pertinent to a memory. Instead, we get in clear detail the bike he would drive around the block and the red scarf his mother made him to look like Speed Racer. The story itself doesn’t follow a plot-line like most novels, it’s a string of important memories that shaped Mickey’s entire life. Starting with having to climb the flagpole out front of his school to retrieve Jane’s red and blue 95’s. The memories show Mickey learning to trust and rely on himself, and to never let anyone dictate who he should be.

This brings me to another point that I thought was very interesting. Because the main chunk of the story is told through Mickey when he was 8, the other characters are perceived very differently. Most books, even first person narratives, tell you exactly who their characters are, so you get a good idea of who you are reading about. In this, the bullies are bigger and dumber, cruel teachers are likened to military officers, and the people closest to Mickey seem larger than life. Jane (his unicorn) is raised onto a platform that no one can reach, and carries an air of angelic perfection. They aren’t caricatures (like some stories fall into), you are seeing these people through a child’s eyes.

One of the biggest characters in the book, aside from Mickey himself, was his grandfather. This incredibly wise man shaped the person who he is today, with his lists and his insight. It kind of struck me as hilarious and almost ironic because his Grandaddy reminds me SO MUCH of my mother (who introduced me to Boondock Saints, and through that, Flanery himself). His grandfather’s lessons and his belief’s I have often heard coming out of my own mothers mouth. Even the realizations Mickey learned through the book sound like things my own mother has said to me. I think that’s what made the “coming of age” part of the story hit me harder, because, even though I’m younger than Mickey and Flanery, I’ve learned those lessons in very much the same way.

After Mickey finished middle school, he starts seeing Jane less and less, but his “puppy-love” for her never dwindles. Through college, and life, he never forgets about her. Now, without ruining too much of the story, Mickey finally meets with Jane and gets to sit down and talk to her. This was really interesting to me because finally Jane became a real person. She talked and laughed like a regular person; even though this part wasn’t in great detail, Jane finally lowered from mythical creature status to real woman. Which in my mind, made her even more endearing.  While on the subject of not ruining too much of the story, I will say this, I spent most of the book laughing at the antics Mickey gets up to, and the narrative that comes of it, but I spend the last 50 or so pages crying. I had to take my glasses off I was crying so much.

With that being said, I recommend this book to everyone. There are so many lessons in this book that I know a lot of people need to hear (we all need a Grandaddy in our lives!). It’s written so differently than typical novels that it borderlines poetic. The actual plot of the book isn’t something I typically read, but it’s written in such a way I couldn’t put it down.

I will continue to recommend this book until I’m blue in the face.

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“Night Pleasures” by Sherrilyn Kenyon

nightpleasures

artemisiconI’m going to come across as a complete ass with this review, and I apologize.

I’ve been hearing so much about Kenyon for years, from men and women, but I kept putting it off because it was technically a romance. And as we know, I don’t like romance, at all. I bought the book about a year ago, finally, from a used book store, just in case I got worn down enough and decided to read it. Well, that day came. Curiosity overcame better judgement and I opened the well worn and yellowed pages.

I will say the book isn’t badly written. But it just wasn’t my thing. I have nothing against sex in books (hello, look at some of my past books), but I prefer sex scenes with a point. If the book has a good plot, sex scenes further the story and show more about the characters. This leads to my first issues with romance …and this book. The book is focused mainly on the sex and the plot is just that pesky thing that gets in the way of the sexual tension.

This book starts with our main character, Amanda, getting mistaken for her twin sister and kidnapped, only to wake up handcuffed to some strange man in a dungeon jail cell. Great start! How are they going to get out of this and how will this reveal each character? We don’t know much about Amanda, which is a given since it’s the beginning of the book (it says online that it’s the second in the series, but reads like a first, so I have no idea), but situations like this usually reveal how a character reacts to panic and tension, and shows who they TRULY are, not the mask they show the world.

They monologue about how sexually attracted they are to one another until the big bad shows up and lets them go.

What.

So it had a shaky start, with how much people rave about her stuff, it has to get better? Right?

Her main male is an immortal vampire hunter; your standard tall-dark-and-handsome walking phallus. Amanda is your standard romantic heroine, with little to no personality who makes “nerdy” references and sarcastic comments to seem “different” and “cool”. Within a few pages I already did not care about either character. Amanda is written like many YA female heroines, with no personality so the reader can place themselves in the shoes of the protagonist.

I think because I grew up reading books stereotypically aimed at boys, I don’t understand the need to place myself in the protagonists shoes. Instead of trying to see myself reflected in the character, I saw a role model, something to improve myself and aim for. If I read a boy going on a great adventure, or a girl ending up on a ship and deciding to work alongside the men to gain their acceptance, I decided that I could be adventurous, that I could work hard and be strong. Maybe that’s the same idea as a bland character being a place marker for a persons imagination, but those characters don’t seem to strive for greater. They’re just there for the male to fawn over.

The story was a great idea! With vampires and creatures trying to kill and maim. It has so much potential, but instead of fleshing out a good idea, it’s written in between the sexual tension.

I think the biggest irk I have about the characters is Kyrian and Amanda are both written very inconsistently. One moment Kyrian is strong and commanding, the next he’s blushing and buying baby toys. Instead of giving Amanda traits, the other characters just talk about how ‘strong’ and ‘intelligent’ she is …yet she never shows it. Or when she proudly announced “black belt in aikido”, yet her black belt never came up in any other situation, and she used her black belt to simply kick a guy in the balls. It seemed so out of place. This made me care even less about the characters because they were all over the place with their personalities (or lack there of).

And it seemed that every time the plot was getting interesting, the Daimons would go into a thing called a “bolt-hole” which was an astral projection between dimensions that only they could get into. It hid them away for several days, until it opened again and they had to leave. I was so frustrated with the book at this point that I started referring to the bolt-holes as “plot-holes” …a place where the plot goes to hide. When the interesting parts of the story went into the bolt-holes, it was chapters and chapters of sexual tension.

This series is raved about, and I see lots of people with the Dark Hunter tattoo. It’s just not for me. The plot isn’t interesting enough for me to look past the characters and just enjoy the story like I can with some books. I will not be going back for the rest of the series.

If you like romance, and vampires and the like, then this series is probably for you! I have heard glowing reviews on it from many people. So proceed with caution, but still check it out.

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“Micro” by Michael Crichton and Richard Preston

micro

artemisiconI have never read anything by Michael Crichton, who passed away in 2008, but his books are on my to read list, so I can’t properly determine if this writing style is his, or Richard Preston’s. Preston was selected to finish the novel after Crichton passed, because he was a good chunk into the novel, but it wasn’t finished.

So herein lies the problem. The IDEA is awesome (a little “honey I shrunk the kids” but that can be forgiven), the science is interesting …the execution …not quite so good.

It starts strong with a private investigator, Marcos Rodriguez sneaking into a warehouse to find any dirt on a company called Nanigen. Cuts appear on his skin and he bails. When he meets up with Willy Fong, the lawyer who hired him, they end up slashed to death by something they can’t see. That has me intrigued. What is this Nanigen and what the hell happened!?

Skip to a laboratory full of poorly written students. They are all studying independent biological projects. Spiders, plants, beetles, etc. Nanigen deals with plants and chemicals, so the tie in makes sense. The students are drawn to Nanigen by one of the caricatures brother, Eric Jansen, because the company is looking for brilliant new minds.

The night before they leave, Eric’s younger, Peter gets a call saying his brother went missing. All very interesting! Don’t get me wrong, but this was when I started to notice the writing slipping. Peter had an entire conversation with the Lieutenant in charge of his brothers case and every comment was ended with “Peter said.” No, “Peter demanded” or “Peter asked”, he blandly said every sentence when discussing his brothers death. He doesn’t get any more interesting. Peter is the blandest character I have ever read. Everyone would remark how Peter got along with everyone, but I think that’s because he has no personality to contradict anyone.

And that lead me to my number one issue with the book. All the characters felt like caricatures and stereotypes. Peter: the leader with no personality, Rick: the asshole, Karen: the Asian martial-artist (who is also a strong-woman trope, meaning she is basically written as a man with boobs), Erika: the over-seas student who sleeps with everyone, Amir: the vegan, and Jenny: the character to balance out the male to female ratio. And then they threw in a non-biology student who was studying the other students, and clearly meant to be the one to create tension.

I was so excited to start this book, and granted, I did enjoy it. But I’m enjoying it for the science behind it. You get to see the world through the eyes of a human half an inch tall. Bugs are huge and threatening, the ground crawls with microbes and critters we can’t see as full sized humans. Things we see as commonplace or an irritant, are suddenly the size of a transport truck and life threatening. That is what carried me through the story. It started as one brother trying to deal with the “death” of another brother, and ended up with the students shrunk and trying everything possible to stay alive.

The “evil” character orchestrating everything was more like a cartoon villain than a corporate billionaire at the head of a revolutionary company. The characters were one dimensional and every bad thing that happened didn’t register as more than a few extra words on the page. I flat out didn’t care about any of them. I really didn’t.

Because I have never read any of his other books, I can’t tell if it’s a regular thing for Crichton books to be science heavy and character-weak, or if it was Preston so I may not be so quick to pick up his other books, but that’s not to say that I won’t.

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