The Real Wonderland

Title: ArchEnemy ~ book 3 of the Looking Glass Wars
Author: Frank Beddor
Genre: Young Adult, fantasy, speculative fiction, fairy-tale retelling
Source: I own it! And I'm desperately waiting to meet Frank again to get the book stamped and signed.

The Looking Glass Wars is the story of Wonderland that could be. What if the Wonderland story we all know was actually a second account? What if Lewis Carroll didn't dream up this story, but instead he heard it from the displaced princess of a war torn Wonderland, Alyss?

Frank Beddor creates a world where those theories are possible and more. With Imagination as the key, guide, and source of all possible things we are led into the heart of Wonderland where good is battling evil, right and wrong aren't always crystal clear, and those darn Caterpillar Oracles are meddling in everything. 

ArchEnemy summary from website:

The war for Wonderland has become a war for Imagination!
King Arch has declared himself King of Wonderland as Alyss searches wildly for the solution to the metaphysical disaster that has engulfed her Queendom. The power of Imagination has been lost!
Alyss's search for answers takes her to London where Arch's assassins threaten Alice Liddell and her family. But after coming to her adopted family's assistance, Alyss discovers herself trapped in a conundrum of evaporating puddles. The shimmering portals that exist to transport her home through the Pool of Tears are disappearing! What is happening in Wonderland? Deep within the Valley of Mushrooms the Caterpillar Oracles issue this prophecy: "Action shall be taken to ensure the safety of the Heart Crystal. For Everqueen." But who is Everqueen?
As the metamorphosis of Wonderland unfolds, enemies become allies, bitter rivals face-off, and Queen Alyss and Redd Heart must confront their pasts in this thrilling, no-holds-barred conclusion.

Overall: I adore this series! Beddor's version of Wonderland has had me in its imagination fueled grip for several years now. I got lost in book one.  I couldn't wait for book two to be released. The graphic novels made me squee in delight (in front of the author no less). This book earned my husband thousands of kisses when he made it appear on my bookshelf.  This Wonderland is new and exciting, but is still recognizable and comfortable for those of us who grew up with Charles Dodgson's verison.

**This novel fulfills a reading requirement for the speculative fiction challenge and the TBR challenge.**

But what does the polka-dot scarf symbolize?

Title: I am Hutterite
Author: Mary-Ann Kirkby
Genre: Autobiography, religious
Source: Sent to me by Thomas Nelson, in exchange for an honest review and participation in the Book Sneeze review program.

I love reading about people's journeys through faith and their religions. Maybe it is because my path hasn't always been obvious? Or maybe I'm looking for some recognition that I'm not the only one who doesn't have it all figured out? Whatever the reason, I'm a sucker for well told personal religion stories.

This novel introduced me to a world/religion I didn't even know existed. The Hutterites appear to be very close in beliefs and lifestyle to the Mennonites and / or the Amish. Don't get me wrong, they probably have a much different value set, but those were the closest I have experience with, that I could compare to.

Ms. Kirkby uses her family talent of story telling to give us a family history, touch on some of the religious/lifestyle details she deemed interesting as a child, and to bring us along as she begins to realize who she is and what being Hutterite meant to her.  The story is well told and interesting. However, it offers only a surface introduction to the religion and way of life. In only a few instances are we, readers who are probably not Hutterite, given full explanations to why something occurs. Often we are told this is just how it is.

Overall: As a personal journey and introduction to the Hutterite faith this novel succeeds. If you are looking for a more indepth study of the religion I'd look elsewhere. This is a personal story that captures the way of life and emotional outcomes rather than giving a how and why.

Personal Note: I really do want to know why they chose the polka-dotted head scarf. Ms. Kirkby explains the significance of wearing one....she explains the why's of apron wearing....but she doesn't touch on the why for the pattern. Plus, I can't seem to find it referrenced anywhere....just that they do wear them. Odd.

The President's Vampire

Title: Blood Oath
Author: Christopher Farnsworth
Genre: Paranormal, action, thriller
Source: Borrowed from public library

I had to read this one. From the instant I started hearing chatter about it until the time I was able to get a hold of it, it has been on my want list. Who could resist the draw of a secret agent vampire...working for the US government?

Of note, this novel is fun/odd to read while Abraham Lincoln Vampire Slayer is still fresh in your mind. Mostly due to the timing circumstances....Cade (our vamp) joins forces with the President immediately after Lincoln is done.  But, outside that odd moment of unintentional continuity, this novel is nothing like that one. This novel is more like Dan Brown or John Grisham novel in that the central story revolves around and is told in a political intrigue style. We, readers, are taken along for a ride while one top secret group works against another in a plot to solve a long standing problem that has recently be brought back into the light by a seemingly unrelated terrorist activity. Did ya get that?

What I liked:
1. This is a new and interesting twist on the traditional vampire tales.  Usually vamps fall into one or two categories - blood thirsty monsters or romantic leads. Cade is neither....and both.....and more. He is well developed enough to make you feel he is more than just vampire.

2. The action/plot scenes are mixed with flash backs to Cade's early life and experiences. Plus, each chapter begins with an excerpt from some "top secret" document or conversation. These all usually have something to do with Cade's actions in the coming scene and greatly help to push the story forward without having to have hugs chunks of back narrative.

What I disliked:
1. There is a lot left untidy after the big battle near the end. I can't say too much without giving away spoilers, but with an incident this large......whether or not it is classified as top secret......some one's going to know and there is going to be huge amounts of clean up and pr and..... yeah. Totally dropped that one.

2. Really? One of the bad guys is a a Nazi. Oh and the other is a Middle Eastern Terrorist. Gee....I can understand the relevance of the terrorist (even if that plot is weak). This is a modern political thriller and terrorism is our current big button panic element. But seriously....of all the bad guy archetypes available you had to go for the Nazi? I'm just tired of Nazi's being the fall back bad guys. There are other villains out there people. Be more creative.  I will say this though, the Nazi character was quite a bit more interesting than the terrorist.

Overall: This was an entertaining and quick read. I'd recommend it for fans of political intrigues and vampire fans looking for a new take on vamps.

More teenage vampires...

Title: Bite Me, A Love Story
Author: Christopher Moore
Genre: Paranormal
Source: Borrowed from public library

Yes, the title says it is a love story...and yes there is a love story element in the novel, but I wouldn't call this a romance. It's too gritty and too superficial in many aspects to be romantic.

Yes, one of the main characters, Abbey, is a teen. So are several of the other characters, but I wouldn't classify this as a young adult novel. I don't think many teens would appreciate the humor or the extreme stereotyping of teens that make the teenage characters fun and enjoyable.  While this is a novel about teen vamps, it definitely isn't a fluffy, no-blood/damage teen vampire story.

Things I liked:
1. I love Christopher Moore's sense of humor. He plays stereotypes perfectly, tosses in some irreverent attitudes and *poof* the story is instantly entertaining and humorous while dealing with all sorts of situations.

2.  The world in this novel is one with vampires, but it isn't a vampire's world. They aren't well known, or accepted by all. They aren't everywhere. In fact, there are so very few of them that it is easily seen when the situation gets out of their control.

Things I disliked: 
1. While there are several couples, who express love in a variety of ways, it is extremely irritating that the main couple doesn't express love in any way but sex. To a further extent, Abbey, expresses numerous times that every time she shows her love through a kiss she'll immediately follow that kiss up with a slap in the her boyfriend (who she was kissing) doesn't think she's a whore.  *sigh* Cause, yeah, that's a totally healthy relationship image you have there. I've never understood how some people can use sex as both enticement and punishment in the same moment......or why they would. I certainly don't understand it in fictional characters.

Overall: I enjoyed it as much as I have every other Moore novel I've read. I would recommend this to everyone who wants a new take on a vampire story.

Between the reading...

We are readers. Well, I'm assuming everyone following this blog is a reader at some level. I don't know about your reading habits, but I have books that I read between readings. These books are somewhat like brain candy books in that they are relaxing and interesting. But there is a difference...these books aren't necessarily in my comfort zone. Some aren't even books per se. Some get finished, some don't.

Lately, my between book books have been comics. I've been trying to teach myself how to read graphic novels and comics. While I can read and get the story, I seem to miss whole large important sections of the over arching story or historical referrences. This bothers me a bit. I don't like thinking I've gotten something out of the text only to find out I missed a large part of it. I just never learned how to read comics.

Recently, I've been reading the Avengers' first 8 comics. I was inspired to read them after seeing the Iron Man movies. I've really enjoyed how these new comic movies are being dealt with, and I like the connections that are being made in each movie between the different characters. I want to see what they are based on.  Comics 1-8 were interesting, though much easier to read than the graphic novels I've tried previously. Really, the most interesting thing so far, besides being introduced to some characters I haven't known before (I knew of Iron Man and Hulk, but not Thor and Ant/Giant Man), was seeing the evolution of the various costumes. Between #1 and #3  there was a major evolution of Iron Man's costume.

I'm not going to actually review these comics. I don't feel comfortable enough to be able to give any actual feed back, but I wanted to let you know what's been going on when I'm not nose deep in a novel.

Victorian Ghostbusters

Isn't she lovely? The bustle, the buttons and frills, the hat....a practically perfect Victorian lady. This darling woman is Leanna Renee Hieber, awesomely nice woman and author of The Strangely Beautiful tales - The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker and its sequel The Darkly Luminous Fight for Persephone Parker. You've likely heard of them, yes? I was given the opportunity (actually I was the staff moderator for her panel) at the Phoenix Comicon to meet her and listen to her reading (with nearly precise British accent) of selections from both books. They are awesome! I fell in love with these stories during the reading. I'm so glad I had the opportunity to speak with her and her very handsome friend (who was dressed to match her and portray Alexi).

On a side note, she stayed in full on Victorian gear the entirety of the Con. She has beautiful costumes! Also, if you hadn't already heard, The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker has been optioned for a Broadway musical.

Summary from author's site:         What fortune awaited sweet, timid Percy Parker at Athens Academy? Considering how few of Queen Victoria’s Londoners knew of it, the great Romanesque fortress was dreadfully imposing, and little could Percy guess what lay inside. She had never met the powerful and mysterious Professor Alexi Rychman, knew nothing of the growing shadow, the Ripper and other supernatural terrors against which his coterie stood guard. She knew simply that she was different, haunted, with her snow-white hair, pearlescent skin and uncanny gifts. But this arched stone doorway offered a portal to a new life, an education far from the convent—and an invitation to an intimate yet dangerous dance at the threshold of life and death…

My Thoughts:   I already stated above that I fell in love with these stories during Ms. Hieber's reading. There is something intriguing about a Victorian/Gothic story that has its roots in ancient Greece. Yes, it sounds confusing....and it is slightly when trying to explain it. My husband asked for a summary and then looked questioningly at me as my detailed explanation kept going. There is a lot in this story to love. If you have any affection for novels of the Victorian era, especially the Gothic novels such as Dracula or others, this novel strikes just the right chord. Hieber is able to give wondrous flavor to the text through pretty word choice, without exactly copying the writing style of the Victorians, but giving a direct nod to it.  If you are a steampunk fan, I'm positive you will also find many things to love in this novel. While not actually being a steampunk novel (they aren't using technology - they are using magic/religion) it is set in the Victorian era and it is easy, in many scenes to visualize just how it could be steampunked. (Yes, I just made that a verb. Live with it.)

The cover is gorgeous. With the clock and the street lamp and the mist; it just feels like what I imagine Victorian England to have been. It also precisely captures the mood and tone of supernatural occurrences within the novel.

I'm glad I bought this novel....I immediately devoured it. There was no casual reading for this one.

Summary from the author:   With radiant, snow white skin and hair, Percy Parker was a beacon for Fate. True love had found her, in the tempestuous form of Professor Alexi Rychman. But her mythic destiny was not complete. Accompanying the ghosts with which she alone could converse, new and terrifying omens loomed. A war was coming, a desperate ploy of a spectral host. Victorian London would be overrun.  Yet, Percy kept faith. Within the mighty bastion of Athens Academy, alongside The Guard whose magic shielded mortals from the agents of the Underworld, she counted herself among friends. Wreathed in hallowed fire, they would stand together, no matter what dreams or nightmares—may come. 

 My Thoughts:   The second book in the series had me held nearly as intently as the first. Stress on the nearly. While I adored the continuation of the story, there were a few bits that drove me crazy. The tap danced across my reading pet peeves time after time. Luckily, other bits soothed me and kept my general adoration for the story intact.  To be brief, Percy, who is finally coming into her power both literally and figuratively, does the thing that peeves me the most. She continually refuses to share knowledge, information, thoughts, and even translations with the rest of her team. This is distressing for several reasons, but's her job! Her position in the group, and all of the major paranormal happenings revolving around her, rely on her being able to translate and share information with the group. However, she rarely does this.  I's great for suspense building and totally in character with the types of novels this one is inspired by....but......frustrating!!!!  Also, Alexi seems to morph from a strong willed, focused professor to raving, controlling, cavemen in the span of a wedding. Sheesh! There are ways to be alpha without actually running roughshod over your woman.

The cover for this novel seems to have followed the almost trend. There is a great background, title, and color.....but then they just had to throw in some eyes. I find this creepy. I can logically understand what they are referencing , but floating eyes are just not my thing. Happily, I don't have to look at the cover while reading!

This book was actually the catalyst for my reading the series. During Ms. Hieber's

I read books they way other people eat, sleep, or watch movies....voraciously, obsessively, and as often as possible. The reviews, random commentary, and snark in this blog are mine alone. Don't take my the book.
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