Rainer Maria Rilke

"Live a while in these books, learn from them what seems to you worth learning, but above all love them. This love will be repaid you a thousand and a thousand times, and however your life may turn,-it will, I am certain of it, run through the fabric of your growth as one of the most important threads among all the threads of your experiences, disappointments, and joys."--Rainer Maia Rilke

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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Too Much of a Fantasy

Pegasus and the Flame of Olympus:  Pegasus #1 by Kate O'Hearn

Adolescent Fantasy

You must completely suspend belief to read this.  The plot is unbelievable; the characters aren't realistic at all; and, the dialogue is stilted and false.  Yet, slowly, I started to enjoy it.  By the last page, I thought I'd give #2 in the series a try.  Maybe.

Emily's life isn't great to begin with.  Her mother passed away two years ago and her father is largely absent.  It goes from bad to worse when a winged horse crashes onto her roof in New York City during a thunderstorm. (A warning here:  beware of violent plot shifts like this!)  For some reason, the horse (Pegasus) trusts Emily and she enlists the help of a surly classmate (Joe) to save the horse with large amounts of breakfast cereal.  Pegasus is fleeing because Olympus has fallen.  Don't get excited--Channing Tatum will not make an appearance!  Instead, a group called the Nirads have attacked the Greek stronghold and are looking for the winged wonder.  Pegasus was unable to save Olympus because a petty thief (Paelen) stole his magical harness.  Now Pegasus needs to retrieve it; the goddess Diana is PO'ed; and, Paelen has been captured by some FBI/Greek God type of group.

Rick Riordan doesn't need to worry.  It's not a female Percy Jackson.  It's a series that doesn't end on the last page, if you care to keep reading after that strange, but accurate, summary.  It was just a little to fantastical for me to be too keen on it.  Still, the character of Emily is likable and you just can't help rooting for her.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Pure, Classic Fun

Tarzan of the Apes (Tarzan #1) by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Classic Adventure

100 years old and still a great adventure read--that's why it's a classic!  Although some of the story is politically incorrect by today's standards and some of the details are scientifically incorrect, it is still worth suspending disbelief for.

Tarzan starts with a love story--a husband and wife who can't bear to be separated so she accompanies him on a military trip by ship.  The trip is fraught with strife, and soon the two are abandoned by the mutinous crew on a deserted tropical beach.  As things will happen, Lord and Lady Greystroke have a child and then die, leaving the infant at the mercy of the elements.  An ape tribe finds the infant, and he is ultimately saved by a female named Kala, who had just lost her own baby.  Kala treats him as her native-born son, taking him into the tribe and raising him.  During adolescence, Tarzan discovers that he is not an ape, but a man.  He finds his family's hut on the beach and teaches himself to read.  One day, a ship lands with other humans, and Tarzan is captivated by Jane, the professor's daughter, so much so that he leaves his wilderness behind and travels to England to become civilized.

At that time, Africa must have seemed like a distant planet and I love the imagination Burroughs used to describe this lush, tropical wonderland.  Burroughs has to be the master of the cliffhanger endings--you have to keep reading to the next one to find out what happens to our main characters.  I absolutely loved the story--the writing was amazing and the book has it all:  romance, adventure, danger!  I can't wait to start reading the next one.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

A Zombie Plague for Vampires

The Strain by Guillermo del Torro and Chuck Hogan


What an incredible opening--an airplane lands, the shades are pulled down, and communication is lost.  Fearing terrorists, the police and bomb squad are called in.  What they find is much worse than their worst thoughts.  Everyone on board is dead, except for four people who are dying.  It's a race to figure out what killed the others and decide if this thing is infectious.

Eph Goodweather is head of the CDC and gets the call (I know I'm going to love a book when the CDC is in it.  I love it when they get involved.  The CDC should totally have their own series on TV.  That stuff will scare anybody).  He has no idea what's going on, but he knows it isn't good.  (Is it ever good when the CDC gets called in?)  Abraham Setrakian has been awaiting this moment his whole life.  He learned the stories of darkness and evil at his mother's knee. 

I really liked this book.  My favorite parts involved the character of Eph, a captivating man with a complicated past that gets in the way of his job.  The plot--a vampire plague and a scientist racing to discover and stop it--really had me hooked.  It's not exactly a unique vampire story, but if you're really into the genre, it's certainly worth a read.  There's definitely enough meat in it (no pun intended) to carry over into the next book.  This is first in a series so the action won't end on the last page.  The book was published just a few years ago, but it has a very 1980's vibe to it, which isn't a bad thing.  I like it when characters muddle around in the dark without the benefit of technology giving them an automatic answer.  Plus, the vampire are very bad-ass, which is the best kind.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Always Better Than the TV Version

Under the Dome by Stephen King


This is only the fourth Stephen King book I've read, so I can't say it was classic King, but I can say that it was good!  It's about a thousand page book, but it doesn't feel like it.  It just flies right along.

This tale takes place in ,perhaps ,the scariest setting of all--small-town America.  On one normal, ordinary day, a clear dome slams down around Chester's Mill, Maine, trapping the townspeople inside and barring everyone else outside.  The clear dome is like an electric field, and there are plenty of explosions and grotesqueries to start the action.  The outside world is flummoxed.  Scientists can't figure it out the military can't blow it up.  The monsters inside (much like the real-world) are small-town politicians whose power-hungry egocentrism are ruining the tiny world.  There are so many main characters to keep track of, but don't worry.  Not all of them survive!  Barbie is an Iraqi vet and a wild card--an out-of-towner who won't buckle; Julia, a newspaper owner who wants to expose corruption; and, Big Jem Rennie, the evil SOB in charge.

What's so scary about this book?  Imagine if you were trapped in a small space with limited food, air, water, and there's a moron in charge.  Did I mention his son is suffering from a brain tumor, has had a psychotic break, and is on the way to being a serial killer?  Yeah, that complicates the plot a bit.  What's so scary is that the monster is your neighbor, your lover, even you.  Skip the awful TV corruption and stick with the book (always my advice).

Monday, March 10, 2014

Wickedly Awful

Wicked:  The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire


I saved this book to read over a long holiday because I knew it would be so good. What a disappointment.  I absolutely hated it!  I don't understand what all the hype is about.

This book tells the story of Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West.  With a main character like that, it should be a slam dunk; yet, Maguire has turned her into an Eco-terrorist, scared of all human interaction.  She's weird and unlikeable, a main character that is impossible to connect to.  Elphaba was an autistic-like child, but green.  Her condition most likely a result of a forgotten tryst between her alcoholic, nymphomaniacal mother and an ef.  The only person who could possibly love her was her staid, minister "father".  When she goes to college, she ends up with Glinda as a roommate.  There is very little to like about Glinda before she turned into a good witch..  She is  snobbish and treats those around her very selfishly.  Still, those two seem to bond and grow fond of one another with a grudging sort of self respect.  Elphaba commits her life to overthrowing The Wizard of Oz, a corrupt power-hungry politician.

The one good thing I can say about this book--it was so boring that it would cause me to nod off frequently while reading it.  So, I was well-rested.  Maybe it would be better with music and dancing.  It can't be worse.

Sunday, March 9, 2014


The World Without Us by Alan Weisman


This book has won multiple awards, and rightly so! 

The author poses these simple questions:  What if all the human beings on earth just disappeared?  What would happen to the world without our interfering?  How long would it take for the Earth to forget all about us?  These are fascinating questions, but then the author goes on to describe exactly what would happen without us here.  Turns out, the world would keep on turning.  Mother Earth doesn't need us at all.  It's a humbling, sobering thought for a species who thinks the world revolves around them and their needs.  It's amazing how quickly creature comforts would erode without man's constant intervention.  Some major cities would either flood for catch fire withing day.  Yet, what other creatures need these comforts but man?

Even though the book was written more than five years ago, the research and facts are still relevant today.  (Although I am not a scientist!)  Weisman's writing isn't boring or dry.  He injects the perfect amount of drama into a very scholarly subject.  It is not an easy book to read, but it is a fascinating one.  It is a great book for those interested in preserving our natural resources.  It shows what an amazing machine our Earth is.  There are some very disturbing facts about how we have ruined the Earth, maybe forever, and a lesson on how the Earth is slowly, slowly, reclaiming herself.  If more people read this book, and others like it, our environment would be in much better shape--it's that important of a read.  It gives the genre "dystopian" a whole new meaning!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Far From Normal

Paranormalcy by Kiersten White


I didn't really like this book at the beginning.  It seemed like another adolescent fluffy paranormal piece, but the farther the story went on, the darker and more convoluted it became.  Thus, I was hooked:  a story with meat--and one that could keep readers going through several more books.

Evie's life is not normal, even for a paranormal book!  She works for (lives at and is chaperoned by) the International Paranormal Containment Agency, an agency that tracks and monitors the world's magical creatures.  Evie is far from normal herself.  She has the unique ability to see past 'glamours' to the truth about paranormal creatures.  This makes her dangerous to some, so she needs protection.  And, it's also her job.  She goes out to locate and bring back these dangerous creatures. 

This is first in a series that I will definitely keep reading.  One of my favorite characters was the evil fairy, and Evie's ex-boyfriend.  This back story would be fascinating.  I liked him way better than the current boyfriend, who was boring a little suspicious.  Evie does act in very immature and irritating way for some of the book, but she is 16, so her actions and dialogue are credible.  I also loved that Evie can't figure out what is going on with who or what she is.  Perhaps the prophecy in the book is about her?  I can't wait to find out!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

What's With All the Fuss?

Vampire Diaries #1:  The Awakening by L. Smith

Adolescent Paranormal Romance

With all the hype and hullabaloo, I expected to fall in love with this series.  I haven't watched the show and don't intend to.  I'm judging the book solely on the writing.  But, I didn't love it, at least not with this first installment.  Still, I liked it enough to keep going.

It has all the right ingredients to be a good series:  a beautiful, thoughtful, longing heroine; a tragic, misunderstood, sexy hero; an ancient and deadly curse that stands in the way of their love. 

Yet, it still felt a little false to me,  a little staged, and not quite real enough.  A lot of the dialogue felt really forced.  The main character, Elena, is very hard to like or connect with in the beginning of the book.  She is mean, petty, selfish, and shallow.  I couldnt' find a way to sympathise with her at all. Elena does show some promise.  She starts opening up and change some, but her "love at first sight" devotion comes across as slightly false. 

I did like the character of Stefan.  He is dark and brooding with a tragic past and a secret.  There's enough in that to keep me coming back one more time.  I also really liked how the story flashed back to Stefan and Damon's past--the how and why of becoming a vampire.  It shows there's a reason for Stefan's angst.  Stefan is a much more magnetic character and my only reason for the reading the next book. 

Still, I'm a bit worried about the next book.  Elena most certainly doesn't deserve Stefan and he's only interested in her because she bears a striking resemblance to his dead love.  That's not much to base a romance series on.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

No Paranormal Witches, Some Math.....Yet, I Still Liked It!

The Witch of Agnesi:  Bonnie Pinkwater #1 by Robert Speller


This isn't normally a book I would like, seeing as how it had mathematical influences and all.  But, I really liked it--and there wasn't enough math to fry my brain.

Bonnie Pinkwater is  a respected teacher and academic coach, and when one of her students disappears on her watch, she can't just leave it to the local police.  When the student turns up dead, Ms. Pinkwater knows she must rush to find the killer before another young person winds up dead.  Add to the mix a witch coven, domestic and child abuse, and a science teacher/love interest, and you have all the ingredients for a really intriguing tale.

This was a great mystery read; one that kept my attention the whole way through, trying to guess the next turn of events.  That is one thing I really liked about this book.  I just couldn't predict what was going to happen next. It kept me zipping right through the pages.  I loved that the main character (and detective) is a teacher, even if she does teach math!  I've never read about a teacher detective before.  Very unique!  It was a mystery where the characters were more important than the crime.  I also liked the humor in it, and the romance was a nice twist.  I love it when aging teachers get their groove on.