Review of The Anatomist’s Wife by Anna Lee Huber (2012) (Lady Darby Mysteries #1)

Bottom line: A powerful mystery with a great new detective.

Rating: Recommended

Blurb:

Scotland, 1830. Following the death of her husband, Lady Darby has taken refuge at her sister’s estate, finding solace in her passion for painting. But when her hosts throw a house party for the cream of London society, Kiera is unable to hide from the ire of those who believe her to be as unnatural as her husband, an anatomist who used her artistic talents to suit his own macabre purposes.

Kiera wants to put her past aside, but when one of the house guests is murdered, her brother-in-law asks her to utilize her knowledge of human anatomy to aid the insufferable Sebastian Gage—a fellow guest with some experience as an inquiry agent. While Gage is clearly more competent than she first assumed, Kiera isn’t about to let her guard down as accusations and rumors swirl.

When Kiera and Gage’s search leads them to even more gruesome discoveries, a series of disturbing notes urges Lady Darby to give up the inquiry. But Kiera is determined to both protect her family and prove her innocence, even as she risks becoming the next victim…

Review:

This was one of those books where I finished it and had the awesome-new-author-discovery jitters. The more I look back on it, I’m able to think more analytically about it and figure out what I liked and what I didn’t like and so on, but not many books actually make me giddy with joy when I’m done with them. So, as I do my review, keep that in mind.

First my complaints – I didn’t really like the male lead, and didn’t think he was extraordinarily well handled. We get interesting hints about him, that he pretends to be shallow and pretentious, but underneath is a serious and intelligent detective, but we’re only told the former for a few pages in the beginning, and suddenly he’s the latter, with no hints as to why he would pretend otherwise in the first place. Also, I’m not crazy about the “reformed rake” style hero (or in this case “could-possibly-reform-in-the-future-for-the-right-woman rake”). My other annoyance was that this novel takes place in high society in 1830, where apparently everyone cheats on their spouses with hardly any consequences, or batted eyelashes. Perhaps that’s true to the time, I’m not a historian, but it did irritate me.

Apart from those things, I loved it. This might be one of the few novels where I’ve seen angst well handled, and certainly one of the very few novels written in recent times where this is the case. The heroine is both strong and suffering from things in her past. Her level of angst over it, as well as society’s reaction seemed very believable considering the novel’s time and place.  Remember that these were things no one would have been able to see on TV and therefore become desensitized to. (If my wording here seems more awkward than usual, it’s because I’m trying to avoid spoilers, even little ones, as is my policy.)

The murder plot/discovery was very good, as were the pace, supporting characters (for the most part), and setting. I thought the author did an excellent job conveying the time period and location without overdoing it. There were several interesting facts dropped about oil painting in that time, but again, you never felt like you were listening to an info dump. She also conveyed what was necessary about clothing to help you picture the scene without making my eyes glaze over about corsets and petticoats and whatever else people wore back then (I’m even less of a fashionista than I am a historian).

However, despite really loving Kiera, the main character, the best part of this book, in my humble opinion, was how well the author handled Kiera’s emotions after the murder takes place. Authors all too often seem to err either on the side of “character barely affected by gruesome murder” or “character overly affected by murder of someone she barely knows and spends the whole book fainting and throwing up.” The horror Kiera feels at what is a particularly terrible murder is extremely well depicted. Though I have read far more graphic and violent murders, I was drawn in to all the pain and injustice that accompanied this one, much more than in other mysteries I’ve read. Reading about Kiera’s feelings seemed to echo and magnify my own in a powerful way. So, consider yourself warned.

Clearly, as you can see by how much I had to say about this book, it was one that really did affect me, and I mean that in a good way (I’ve got book two on hold at the library). If you are at all interested in historical mysteries – or willing to try them – this one is well worth the read.

Get it: Amazon, Barnes & Noble

*If you use these links to make a purchase, Lector’s Books may receive a small commission. This will not affect your price or purchasing experience in any way.

 

Review of Young Frankenstein (1974) Movie

In celebration of Halloween on Thursday, I’m going to review Mel Brooks’s Young Frankenstein. For those of you who are familiar with Mel Brooks, those four words pretty much tell you all that you need to know. It’s Mel Brooks putting his classic touch on the Frankenstein story. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Mel Brooks, I’m sorry for your difficult childhood, and please go watch Spaceballs immediately. The humor is crude, the acting is over the top, the lines are ridiculous – in other words pretty much everything you could ever want in a movie.

If you’re still not sure if this movie is one you’d enjoy, let me give you a hint: my female relatives are reading this and wondering where they went wrong with me, while my male relatives are reading this and thinking “man, it’s been a while, I need to watch it again!” It is certainly the type of movie that you need to be in the mood for – slapstick comedies don’t always fit the bill for an evening in, but it is really funny and showcases some greats: Gene Wilder, Peter Boyle, Marty Feldman, Teri Garr, Madeline Khan, and even Gene Hackman has a small bit.

My plans for Halloween are set: dress my baby up as Luke Skywalker, eat candy corn, and watch Young Frankenstein. I’m also wishing I could sedate our dog for the evening, as an anxious terrier plus trick-or-treating kids ringing the doorbell every five minutes is not a happy combination, but that’s neither here nor there.

Side note: It’s rated PG, which by today’s standards is probably technically accurate, but I’d call it more PG-13 lite. Apart from the rauncy bits, there are some parts that might be scary for younger children, so I’d definitely make sure you are very familiar with the movie before deciding whether or not to let your kids watch it.

Get it: Amazon, Barnes & Noble

What’s your favorite Mel Brooks movie? Can’t stand him? Anyone want to watch my dog on Oct. 31?

*If you use these links to make a purchase, Lector’s Books may receive a small commission. This will not affect your price or purchasing experience in any way.

Review of Firefly (TV Show)

Bottom line: Intense and yet often hilarious – a rare example of a good sci fi show.

Rating: Shiny (Strongly Recommended)

Blurb:

The blurb that follows is lifted from the Barnes and Noble page, and it’s a bit long, but it does a reasonable job of answering the question “but what is it about?

Joss Whedon, the executive producer behind Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, reached for curious new heights in the fall of 2002 with the Fox series Firefly, and the fruits of his labor are collected in this four-disc set. Set 500 years in the future, Firefly falls in the category of sci-fi space adventure, yet its flavor is rooted in the Wild West. Earth is pretty much spent, and a totalitarian government known as the Alliance rules the planets where most of its earlier inhabitants have spread. Nathan Fillion stars as Malcolm “Mal” Reynolds, who fought for independence from the Alliance in a civil war, and now captains the Serenity, a ship of outcasts. His crew includes his second-in-command Zoe Gina Torres, a pilot named Wash Alan Tudyk, engineering maven Kaylee Jewel Staite, and career soldier Jayne Adam Baldwin. Also aboard are Inara Morena Baccarin, a highly respected prostitute; a preacher known as Shepherd Book Ron Glass, of Barney Miller fame; and a mysterious pair of siblings — Simon and River Tam — portrayed by Sean Maher and Summer Glau, respectively. Although Whedon’s Farscape- meets- Bonanza concept clicked straight away with many fans, the series failed to meet Fox’s ratings needs, and crashed after 11 episodes, all collected here, in addition to a trio of unaired episodes. Fox could not permanently ground this crew, however; Serenity, a big-screen reunion movie directed by writer-producer Whedon, opened in theaters in September, 2005, drawing generally favorable reviews.

Review:

This show has many things that I would normally hate – there is lots of tension, drama, and unhappiness – but there is also excellent characters, strong morals, and subtly hilarious lines. Essentially, it is Joss Whedon (god of the nerds) at his finest. Shoot, it might be TV at its finest. It was cancelled after eleven episodes, and strong fan outrage prompted a follow up movie, Serenity, which is also amazing, but difficult to watch because there are so many sad moments in it. (Note: Firefly also has its very hard to watch moments. Don’t be scared off: I am a total wimp and want everyone to be happy all the time. Tone-wise it’s very similar to Castle – see my review here.)

So what is it that prompted such a small but incredibly intense following? Everything about it is done well. The casting, acting, writing, special effects, everything is just fantastic. The characters feel like real people and you root for them even when they screw up. Whedon developed the show after reading the book The Killer Angels (strongly recommended, even for non-history buffs, like myself) about the Civil War and wondering what happened to those who fought on the losing side.

This is the kind of show that you find yourself thinking about days, months, even years after watching it. I can’t watch it too frequently because, as I said earlier, it can be dark and there is definitely violence, language, and sex. Even with all of that, it still feels hopeful. Loyalty and family bonds are very strong themes throughout – family being those we are related to, those we gather around us, and those we somehow fell into it with. And if we have our family standing with us, we can face anything.

Get it: Amazon, Barnes & Noble

Are you a Browncoat? Does it sound like something you’d try?

*If you use these links to make a purchase, Lector’s Books may receive a small commission. This will not affect your price or purchasing experience in any way.

 

Review of Whiskey Sour: A Jack Daniels Mystery (2004) by J.A. Konrath (Jack Daniels Mysteries #1)

Bottom line: Definitely worth a read for hard boiled fans who don’t mind a little cliché and dose of humor in their gruesome detective stories.

Rating: Recommended

Blurb:

Lieutenant Jacqueline ‘Jack’ Daniels is having a bad week. Her live-in boyfriend has left her for his personal trainer, chronic insomnia has caused her to max out her credit cards with late-night home shopping purchases, and a frightening killer who calls himself ‘The Gingerbread Man’ is dumping mutilated bodies in her district. Between avoiding the FBI and its moronic profiling computer, joining a dating service, mixing it up with street thugs, and parrying the advances of an uncouth PI, Jack and her binge-eating partner, Herb, must catch the maniac before he kills again….and Jack is next on his murder list. Whiskey Sour is full of laugh-out-loud humor and edge-of-your-seat suspense, and it introduces a fun, fully drawn heroine in the grand tradition of Kinsey Millhone, Stephanie Plum, and Kay Scarpetta.

Review:

This book was recommended to me years ago, but I put off reading it because I was afraid it would be too gory for me. Make no mistake, this book certainly has its disgusting and violent moments, but for me the light tone interspersed throughout the book (it works better than it sounds like it would) helped me stomach the bad moments. It was suspenseful, interesting, and well written. There were several clichés throughout, but I genuinely liked the main character. It is difficult to create a tough-as-nails female cop/detective that is also feminine (in the “feels like a woman” sense, not necessarily the “pink high heels” sense) and realistic, not to mention likeable, but Konrath has managed that with Jack Daniels.

Two things that annoyed me the were the way over the top incompetent and cardboard FBI agents and the bad guy’s giggling. Other than that it was a very strong read – I will certainly be reading more of the series when I have the time.

 Get it! Amazon, Barnes & Noble

What did you think? I know the series has been around for almost a decade now – have any of you read it?

*If you use these links to make a purchase, Lector’s Books may receive a small commission. This will not affect your price or purchasing experience in any way.

Wimsey Wednesday: an Introduction to a Not-Altogether-Unhealthy Obsession

Howdy! I’m on vacation in Brazil for most of September, so I turned the tables on my readers and opened up the blog for guests posts while I’m gone. You may recognize today’s guest blogger from the comments as “intexplorer”, but I just call him “Dad”. As you will see, I come by my love of both Dorothy Sayers’ work and alliteration naturally.

When I was a teenager, I was a voracious reader with tastes that were either very eclectic or not-very-discriminating.  I read science fiction, mysteries, adventures, history, political tomes, fantasy, and more.  When I first read Lord of the Rings, I remember being struck with how complex the sentence structures were.  Whereas the fiction of C.S. Lewis and Alastair MacLean were always easy reads and instantly accessible, J.R.R. Tolkien and, later, Dorothy Sayers, required a bit of literary recalibration.  Looking back on this, I think that my reading diet contained so much light fare that my brain was not accustomed to the meaty writing of a Sayers or Tolkien without some extra effort on my part.

Mind you, I’m not equating the quality of C.S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy with The Guns of Navarone, but I guess it does follow that part of the genius of C.S. Lewis was that he wrote superb fiction which is instantly accessible to the average reader.

Dorothy Sayers created the character of Lord Peter Wimsey after World War I as a cross between Sherlock Holmes and Bertie Wooster.  Wimsey is a member of the English aristocracy, but as the second son, he has no title, few responsibilities, and lots of money.  So naturally he decides to devote some of his spare time and ample intelligence to solving the mysteries that spring up all about him.

Author Dorothy Sayers was one of the first women to receive a degree from Oxford (in 1915) and was a friend of C.S. Lewis and other members of an Oxford literary club called the “Inklings.”  Sayers seems to have been unlucky in love and, clearly, Lord Peter Wimsey was her perfect man.  He is introduced as a somewhat cardboard-ish figure in Whose Body, but as Sayers develops his world and character over the course of eleven novels, he becomes as real and interesting as any person I’ve not personally met; and more interesting than many people I have met.

The books are a marvel to read, with the mysteries being of secondary importance to the sense of time, place, and manners.  Most of the books are also available as audiobooks and some as dramatizations, with the former to be preferred over the latter.  The late Ian Carmichael read most of the novels in unabridged format for the BBC Radio 4 “Book at Bedtime” series during the 70’s and early 80’s—long before audiobooks became popular.  Carmichael completely owns the characters, and any of these books make an excellent way to pass the time during long car trips.  Many is the time we have listened to some—or most—of a Wimsey mystery on a road trip, and then been forced to spend the next week or so finishing the audiobook in one or two hour segments every night: they are that addictive.

The Lord Peter Wimsey novels can be divided into two groups:  Wimsey the bachelor, and Wimsey the wooer (of novelist Harriet Vane).  Perhaps coincidentally, the two Wimsey television adaptations are divided the same way.  Next week, I will review the better (and more recent) series, which covers three of the four Wimsey/Vane novels.  And then I will review the earlier adaptation, which stars an already-too-old Ian Carmichael.  This series is also excellent, but likely to be of more interest to those who share my not-altogether-unhealthy obsession with the Wimsey characters and series.

*Janie again here! For my take on Dorothy Sayers, see my post here.

Close Encounters of the Fourteenth Century Kind

Howdy! I’m on vacation in Brazil for most of September, so I turned the tables on my readers and opened up the blog for guests posts while I’m gone. Today’s post comes from John, a.k.a. Mr. Lector’s Books.

I have a confession: I listen to a lot of audiobooks.  Where most people listen to music, I would much rather hear a story.  This is why (other than my utter lack of mathematical ability) I majored in history.  History courses and books are most engaging to me when I get to know the people involved and understand how situations and perceptions affect decisions and events.  One of my favorite books, and one assigned in my American History 101 class, is Killer Angles by Michael Shaara.  Killer Angles is a novelization of the Battle of Gettysburg and tells the story of the battle from the perspective of soldiers from both the Union and Confederate armies.  To study a battle is one thing, but to read/hear it coming from the voices and conflicted inner monologues of real people brings depth to a war that divided our nation and shaped its future.

I enjoy historical non-fiction and books on current events, but, if I’m completely honest, most of the books I listen to are pure sci-fi escapism.  I love the world building of authors like Robert Heinlein, C.S. Lewis, Susan Collins, and John Scalzi.  When I need something outside of my trusted authors, I will randomly pick a sci-fi book from an author I haven’t read or heard of before.  Sometimes I end up with a dud, but other times I find gems like Eifelhiem by Michael F. Flynn.  This wonderfully strange book combines elements of actual history and sci-fi to produce a work of fiction that is truly unique and speaks to my historical and alien-loving geekiness.

Eifelhiem is about humans making contact with alien race that comes to Earth.  What is fascinating about the book is that the author sets this close encounter in fourteenth century Germany and the protagonist is the village of Eifelhiem’s priest.  As the author tells the story of the humans interacting with a “demonic” looking race of beings, there is a secondary plot set in the present.  In the present, a cliometric history professor (a field that uses economics to study the course of history) is trying to piece together why the village of Eifelhiem was abandoned in the fourteenth century and never inhabited again, while his wife, also a professor, ponders the mysteries of theoretical physics.

Like the history professor in the book, I came to admire the village’s priest, Father Dietrich.  Dietrich is a man whose fervor for his faith once led him down a darker path, but he now channels his passion into serving and taking care of the people of the village, his adopted home.  He is a man trained in religion, philosophy, history, logic, and science.  His learning and religious views are tempered by his age and wide array of experiences, making him a gentle and wise man and pastor.  His congregants love and respect him, and feel comfortable enough to make fun of his often technically brilliant yet dry sermons.

Dietrich is the first of the humans to recognize that the aliens, the Krank, are not demons.  He sees them as mortal men, simply different from himself.  However, he is not the first of the humans to offer hospitality.  The story explores themes of racism, charity, and grace.   It also delves into questions regarding the soul and who our “neighbor” is in the New Testament sense.

I would not call this a religious or Christian book.  The intent is to tell a story in the world of medieval Europe.  To tell a story in that place and time, just like when you study Western history, you have to consider the beliefs and motivations of that era’s people.  For Europeans at that time, their views of the world were shaped by the Catholic Church.  The author is not making a statement, just using the resources available to him during the time period of when he is writing.

I would recommend this book if you have any interest in history, economics, sci-fi, physics and/or if you have ever wondered how Christianity would reconcile the existence of sentient extraterrestrials.  I would also warn that the time period lacked our current medical understanding.  There are several scenes of detailed medical procedures that would seem counterintuitive to anyone who has even watched a modern medical drama.  There is serious foreshadowing throughout the book about the eventualities of the humans and the aliens. Even though the fates of the villagers and the visitors can be surmised through information in the book, I found that I still wanted to know how everything played out.  This is yet another unique quality of book I greatly enjoyed.

Thanks for reading,

John

Available (Audiobook): Amazon, Barnes & Noble

Available (e-book): Amazon, Barnes & Noble

What are your favorite audiobooks?

*If you use these links to make a purchase, Lector’s Books may receive a small commission. This will not affect your price or purchasing experience in any way.

Review of by Cape Refuge (2002) by Terri Blackstock (Cape Refuge Series #1)

Bottom line: A realistic mystery that is well worth reading.

Rating: Recommended

Blurb:

Mystery and suspense combine in this first book in an exciting new 4-book series by best-selling author Terri Blackstock. Thelma and Wayne Owens run a bed and breakfast in Cape Refuge, Georgia. They minister to the seamen on the nearby docks and prisoners just out of nearby jails, holding services in an old warehouse and taking many of the ‘down-and-outers’ into their home. They have two daughters: the dutiful Morgan who is married to Jonathan, a fisherman, and helps them out at the B & B, and Blair, the still-single town librarian, who would be beautiful if it weren’t for the serious scar on the side of her face.

After a heated, public argument with his in-laws, Jonathan discovers Thelma and Wayne murdered in the warehouse where they held their church services. Considered the prime suspect, Jonathan is arrested. Grief-stricken, Morgan and Blair launch their own investigation to help Matthew Cade, the town’s young police chief, find the real killer. Shady characters and a raft of suspects keep the plot twisting and the suspense building as we learn not only who murdered Thelma and Wayne, but also the secrets about their family’s past and the true reason for Blair’s disfigurement.

Review:

It has been a while since I’ve started a mystery that compelled me to finish it. Despite having some characters that irritated me, and the frequent point of view changes between five or so main characters, I found myself really caring about them, and rooting for them all the way through (even the ones I occasionally wanted to shake – Jonathan, I’m looking at you here.) I thought the book could have done with some slimming down in spots – there were a couple of places it seemed like the characters should have caught on well before they did.

But overall, as I said, I found it compelling. It was a frighteningly believable story, and I found myself suffering with the helplessness of the main characters as it feels like all is crashing down around them. What do you do when it seems like everyone is against you? In a small, isolated town, where only a few people are in power and they all know each other, that can create a dangerous dynamic.

I also liked how the author was able to create scenarios with tension and danger, without relying on completely implausible set ups, such as a middle aged woman singlehandedly barging in to a biker bar to confront the bad guy who could eat her for lunch. (Side note: on kboards, a forum I sometimes hang out on, I learned about an acronym for just such heroines – TSTL, or Too Stupid To Live. I thought that was hilarious.)

It features Christian themes pretty heavily throughout, but it was done in a way that made sense in the story – in fact I thought that part was exceptionally well handled. So, apart from a few quibbles with the pacing and one or two of the characters being annoying (though in a very realistic way, which was perhaps why I found them so annoying – these are people that would irritate me in real life, too) it was a very enjoyable read. Well, enjoyable in the traditional mystery sense of “I need to figure out who did it and what is going to happen to the characters now!”

Get it: Amazon, Barnes & Noble

*If you use these links to make a purchase, Lector’s Books may receive a small commission. This will not affect your price or purchasing experience in any way.

 

Review of Illusion by Frank Peretti (2012)

Bottom line: A fascinating and intriguing story about love, time-travel, and magic.

Rating: Strongly Recommended

Blurb:

In a world where nothing is as it seems, anything is possible.

DANE AND MANDY, a popular magic act for forty years, are tragically separated by a car wreck that claims Mandy’s life—or so everyone thinks. Even as Dane mourns, Mandy awakes in the present as the nineteen-year-old she was in 1970. Distraught and disoriented in what to her is the future, she is confined to a mental ward until she discovers a magical ability to pass invisibly through time and space to escape. Alone in a strange world, she uses her mysterious powers to eke out a living, performing magic on the streets and in a quaint coffee shop.

Hoping to discover a new talent, Dane ventures into the shop and is transfixed by the illusions that even he, a seasoned professional, cannot explain. But more than anything, he is devastated by this teenager who doesn’t know him, is certainly not in love with him, but is in every respect identical to the young beauty he first met and married some forty years earlier.

They begin a furtive relationship as mentor and protégée, but even as Dane tries to sort out who she really is and she tries to understand why she is drawn to him, they are watched by secretive interests who not only possess the answers to Mandy’s powers and misplacement in time but also the roguish ability to decide what will become of her.

Review:

A friend lent me this book, and I’m so glad she did. It’s not the type of thing that I would have sought out on my own. I’ve never been all that fascinated by magic, and the innate frustration of the storyline – I know you, why don’t you know me? Or am I just crazy? – is the kind of thing that could easily drive ME crazy. And yes, there was definitely some frustration in all of that, but was a remarkably well told story. I found myself racing through the pages, frantically trying to figure out a solution that would let Dane and Mandy be happy and together.

I guess the only issue I really had with the book was that there were a lot of characters, and I had a hard time remembering who was who. Genre-wise, I’d say it was kind of sci-fi light – there aren’t an excruciating amount of details given about the mechanics of the time/space travel, in fact, I could have used a little more explanation myself, but it wasn’t all that important. This is a story about love.

The writing and storytelling were excellent. I seem to vaguely remember reading some of Peretti’s other works as a child, but I can’t remember what. I’ll have to do some research. I’m not very good at names: real people, characters, or titles, so I’ll have to dig into some of his storylines and see if they ring any bells. I’m very interested in trying some of his other works (or retrying as the case may be). This was a book that captivated me from page one.

Side note: The pain and loss felt by Dane at the opening of the book when Mandy dies is vivid and real. I teared up several times during the story – something that is rare for me. Because of that, I wouldn’t recommend this book to someone who has recently lost a loved one. There are also strong Christian elements in this book, again, this was something that was handled remarkably well. It felt very natural to the story and the characters, which is not always the case.

Available: Amazon, Barnes & Noble

Have any of you read the book? Read any of Peretti’s other works?

*If you use these links to make a purchase, Lector’s Books may receive a small commission. This will not affect your price or purchasing experience in any way.

 

Review of The Host (2008) by Stephenie Meyer

Bottom line: A fun science fiction story with great characters, action, and romance.

Rating: Recommended

Blurb:

Melanie Stryder refuses to fade away. The earth has been invaded by a species that take over the minds of human hosts while leaving their bodies intact. Wanderer, the invading “soul” who has been given Melanie’s body, didn’t expect to find its former tenant refusing to relinquish possession of her mind.

As Melanie fills Wanderer’s thoughts with visions of Jared, a human who still lives in hiding, Wanderer begins to yearn for a man she’s never met. Reluctant allies, Wanderer and Melanie set off to search for the man they both love.

Featuring one of the most unusual love triangles in literature, THE HOST
is a riveting and unforgettable novel about the persistence of love and the essence of what it means to be human.

Review:

Ok, I have to get this off my chest. Stephenie Meyer is not a terrible author. Please don’t flame me. I know it’s cool to hate on her, and a lot of very smart people have put a lot of creative energy and time into mocking her and her works. Much of which I have enjoyed. (I wanted to link to some, but I couldn’t find any that were solidly within this blog’s…ah…high ideals).

And no, I don’t think she is one of our age’s great literary talents. However, she is a great storyteller. She is actually pretty good at world-building, and her dialogue can be funny and clever. I don’t want to do an in-depth analysis of the Twilight series, but I will say that I’ve read the books, more than once, and I enjoyed them. It started with my sister-in-law, who is several years younger than me and in high school at the time. She had rented the movie, so I, my husband, his brother and his wife all watched it, basically so we could tear it apart. It was horrifically bad. The acting was atrocious, the dialogue was terrible, and I couldn’t think of any reason why ANYONE could possibly have enjoyed that experience. So after that, I had to read the books to see why so many people were passionately devoted to it. As a side note, I think the movies failed (I only saw the first two, then lost interest) because they took out much of the dialogue, which was one of the better features of the books, and the humor. And I will address one of the main points critics bring up: that these books don’t portray a healthy teenage relationship between Edward and Bella. Well, no. But it’s not like Meyer is the first person who has done that. Can you say “Romeo and Juliet”?

Anyways, like I said, I didn’t want to do a full in-depth analysis of the Twilight series here, but I did want to give some background as to how I got into the Host, and you can’t talk about Stephenie Meyer without mentioning Twilight. So, on to the main attraction:

The Host is a sci-fi romance. It’s a very clean romance, and the love story parts of it were handled well. But the world-building in The Host is VERY good. Meyer created interesting and believable species of aliens, and you get some very great details and stories of life on other planets without it feeling like she’s showing off this universe she’s made up (which I occasionally feel with some sci-fi or fantasy authors). There’s action and suspense and tension, and I think her skill as a storyteller really shines through with The Host. I even have, and this is my coup d’état here, a real life MAN who enjoyed it. My husband listened to it on audiobook and thought it was, and I’m quoting verbatim here, “pretty good.” High praise from an actual male.

Available: Amazon, Barnes & Noble.

Side note: We just watched the movie a few nights ago (it’s now available to rent), and I thought it was a fairly good adaptation. They changed quite a few things, as they do, but they captured the main essence. They did leave out quite a bit of the world building that I had enjoyed so much in the book, but I can see why they did. The casting was pretty good, and I liked how they changed the opening. The last couple of scenes were handled much better in the book, but that’s life. It was a fun way to pass an evening. The only thing that annoyed me was that there was a LOT of kissing. If you took out all the kissing scenes, it would have been like a 45 minute movie. I felt like that kid from the Princess Bride movie, and wished we could just skip over most of them.

Movie available: Amazon, Barnes & Noble.

Ok, confess. Any Meyer fans out there?

*If you use these links to make a purchase, Lector’s Books may receive a small commission. This will not affect your price or purchasing experience in any way.

 

Review of The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

Bottom line: It’s a deeply beloved classic for a reason. Read it!

Rating: Strongly Recommended

Review:

There are many types of nerds/geeks (also, I prefer the term nerd to geek, but that’s a topic for another post) out there in society – Dr. Who nerds, Star Trek nerds, Star Wars nerds, and so on. While there are many different ways that I am nerdy, I am a Lord of the Rings nerd through and through. Yes, it’s a billion pages long. Yes, there aren’t any female main characters. Yes, there are some plot points that rely too heavily on eucatastrophe (a word he coined). But it is SO good! Tolkien created a masterpiece of storytelling and world-building, an epic tale of how one small (literally) person can save the world (um – spoiler alert?). He certainly gets points for thoroughness, creating a complex history and mythology of his world, and at least one complete language. The Lord of the Rings was conceived as a sequel to The Hobbit, though that is a children’s book and this is certainly not – at least in terms of length, prose, and themes.

My favorite characters are Eowyn and Faramir, the former being one of the few women in the saga – and a pretty awesome one at that. Faramir is an overlooked son of a noble, and is strong in actions and character. In my opinion, both of these characters are pretty underrated, so when you read it, keep an eye out for them.

I recognize that this may not be everyone’s cup of tea – it is certainly an epic high fantasy quest, which means that the good guys have to get from point A to point B to complete a task while using magic, sword fighting, their wits, and help from strange creatures along the way to defeat the unspeakably evil bad guys and save the world – but it is worth reading, at least once (I reread it maybe every three years or so. In fact, writing this post has made me realize I’m due for another reread.) Though the setting is fantasy, the themes are incredibly relatable – friendship, betrayal, loss, good vs. evil, family, love, pity, and many more. If you aren’t really “that type of person” and only read one epic fantasy in your life, read this one. You won’t regret it! Also, I urge you to read it as a paperback, the experience is just so much better.

Books in order:

The Fellowship of the Rings (1954)Amazon, Barnes & Noble

The Two Towers (1954)Amazon, Barnes & Noble

The Return of the King (1955)Amazon, Barnes & Noble

Side notes:

Though there are some hard things in it, there isn’t graphic violence, no sex, and the language is clean. You could share this with your kids as soon as they’re old enough to not be overwhelmed by the sheer length of it (there are some deaths of fairly major characters).

There were movie adaptations of the trilogy released in 2001, 2002, and 2003. On the whole I thought they were very well done. They (well, Peter Jackson) did manage to ruin Faramir almost completely, but other than that the quality was consistently high throughout the 10 hours or so of movies.

Available: Amazon, Barnes & Noble

What did you think? Did you like the series?

(P.S., if you have already read the LOTR and want to show your pride, you can always check out ThinkGeek. They have LOTR LEGOS, people! Also furry hobbit slippers. )

(P.P.S., After you’ve read the books and watched the movies, then you have my permission to watch How it Should Have Ended. Also, the Honest Trailers is pretty funny, but it’s very graphic (there is a montage of one of the characters dying in really gruesome ways in other movies), so it doesn’t get the Lector’s Books thumbs up.)

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