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There are TWO posts today...Sorry about that :)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Suddenly Sunday (March 20)

Hosted by Svea from Confessions and Ramblings of a Muse in the Fog

Hello dear Readers! I hope this Sunday finds you well. My, time sure does fly when you're busy. Everything is going well here. Dad and his new kidney are functioning fabulously, and he is starting to get a little stir crazy. Drives my mom bonkers, but hey, that's her problem not mine :) Dad says thank you for all your well wishes and prayers, and said you are all on his prayer list. He is quite active at the parish church, so you could say he has a front row seat with the man.

In bookish news, I am between three books as you can see over on the right there. All three are so different, so it's quite easy to keep them straight. I started Hawaii, and then my library book arrived, so I started that. Then I realized I had an interview due for Linda Wisdom, so I started her latest book. Got a bit lost in it, finally wrote up the interview, and sent that off. Good job done.

I have two more books ready for me at the library, so I'll pick those up later this week. I must admit, I like not having to read so many books for review. The few I accept, I want to read, and it doesn't feel like a job. Awesome! Now if I could just read the books I own...

In general personal news, work is super busy, I am teaching two classes, yes two, and I am almost finished part one of the curriculum development project. I want to finish that before it's due so I can make any necessary revisions. And then before you know it, it will be vacation time!

That's about it for me, how about you? Anything exciting going on at the moment or just waiting for Spring, or a baby to arrive?  You know who you are, Trish and Trish. (Oh I just made that connection) The both of you are in my thoughts :) God bless ya girls!

Have a great week and happy reading :)

Monday, March 7, 2011

Review: The Strain by Guillermo Del Toro & Chuck Hogan

The Strain by Guillermo Del Toro & Chuck Hogan (Book 1)
Publisher: Harper
Genre: Fiction, Thriller/Horror, Sci Fi
Paperback, 585 pages
Book Source: the library
My Rating: 95/100

From Goodreads:

The Strain They have always been here. Vampires. In secret and in darkness. Waiting. Now their time has come. In one week, Manhattan will be gone. In one month, the country. In two months—the world.

A Boeing 777 arrives at JFK and is on its way across the tarmac, when it suddenly stops dead. All window shades are pulled down. All lights are out. All communication channels have gone quiet. Crews on the ground are lost for answers, but an alert goes out to the CDC. Dr. Eph Goodweather, head of their Canary project, a rapid-response team that investigates biological threats, gets the call and boards the plane. What he finds makes his blood run cold.

In a pawnshop in Spanish Harlem, a former professor and survivor of the Holocaust named Abraham Setrakian knows something is happening. And he knows the time has come, that a war is brewing . . .

So begins a battle of mammoth proportions as the vampiric virus that has infected New York begins to spill out into the streets. Eph, who is joined by Setrakian and a motley crew of fighters, must now find a way to stop the contagion and save his city—a city that includes his wife and son—before it is too late.

My Thoughts:

Although this is a story about vampires these are not the sparkly, pretty, emo kind.  Oh no, these vamps are the creepy, insidious, scary kind, worse than any of the Big Bads Buffy ever faced.

This is the first book of of the trilogy and as such sets up the story.  Characters are introduced, background, historical information provided, and the set up for book two.  The Strain doesn't end on a cliffhanger but the story is far from over; not by a long shot.  Think more like, "Ha-ha-ha...Catch me if you can."

DelToro and Hogan have created a story that pulled me in many emotional directions.  I felt sad for the victims and their families.  As disgusting as the infected were, I still felt pity for them because they were no longer themselves.  They had become something else by shedding their humanity.  Then the feed, and again become icky and scary to the point that I felt freaked out.  I'm not saying I had nightmares, but I went to the bathroom in the dark I freaked myself out.  Just saying.

As for the victim's families, their road was equally tough.  They have no idea what's about to happen to them.  They are like lambs being led to slaughter.  The American public is being led to slaughter too.

With respect to Dr. Eph Goodweather he knows something's not right with this situation, but he is ignored.  His beliefs in medicine and science become compromised and his struggles to rationalize these events endeared him to me.  He tries to use reason, but when faced with believe or die, well you believe.  By the end of the book, a band of survivors and their back stories are known as well as portents of what's to come in books, The Fall.  Pretty ominous, huh.

Here are the story threads that I am curious to find out about:  (Contains spoilers, highlight to read)

*Do tunnels under water circumvent the traveling over water rule?  If so, the can of worms has exploded.  Literally.
*Hidden band of U.S. vamps that seem to be fighting against this rogue Ancient Master.  What is up with them and what did they kidnap that one guy for?
*Zack and how he handles things.  For a young kid he is quite mature and I liked him very much.

With the way this story is set you could compare it to a zombie story, with the act of vampire transmission, band of survivors, eventual downfall of society.  However, there are rules, guidelines, ancient myths, and organization with these vamps.  They are not completely mindless.

Yes, this review has been chock full of praise, but I did have two quibbles:

1. There was a lot of following individual victims and seeing what happened.  Although it provides for emotional investment and drives home how quick this thing spread, it became old and repetitive.  Each story was more heart breaking than the last though.

2. If you ever come across a big black box, that looks like a coffin, AND  is full of dirt...BURN IT!!  Chances are vamps are involved.  Everyone knows that when they see a coffin like box full of dirt.  I don't care how scientific you are, there is a kernel of truth in every legend.

So overall, LOVED this book!  Creepy, makes you think, and reminds me to keep up my cardio and take a few self-defense classes too.

For more information on the trilogy, cool videos, and interactive stuff, please visit the website:

2010 Challenges Met: 100+, Support Your Local Library

Yes, this was left over from 2010.  Oops!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Interview with Robert Parry, author of The Arrow Chest

Hello dear readers!  Please welcome Robert Parry, author of yesterdays book, The Arrow Chest and also of the novel, Virgin and the Crab, a book about John Dee and Elizabeth Tudor.

Hello Robert,

1.) Anne Boleyn helped to transform England and then was tossed aside and buried, literally. Besides this, what is it about Anne Boleyn that made you want to write her story?

We know so very little about her, and into this vacuum all kinds of intriguing questions inevitably arise. What was it about her character – what was it about her appearance and personality that made her special? I wanted to speculate on these things and about what might have taken place in the relationship with the King. A misplaced word or jest, a conversation misconstrued, a clash of personalities or temperaments. What was it? What went wrong? It is important to consider this, since it was a relationship that shaped history, plunged us into a Reformation of the Church in England and almost led to civil war.

2.) As you researched and wrote your story, has your opinion of Anne or Henry or Wyatt for that matter changed? For better or worse?

During the research and early drafts I became if anything even more sympathetic towards Anne, realising the dreadful predicament she must have faced at the time. I think she realised she was doomed fairly early on in the relationship with Henry – hunted down, so to speak. If she was also in love with someone else, not necessarily Tom Wyatt, but someone other than Henry, it would have made her feel even more desperate as time went by. I mean, how do you reconcile a love for someone else with an offer like that – of becoming Queen of England – with wealth and prestige beyond measure? It could well have torn her apart. It is an old story, too: Guinevere and Arthur, with Lancelot at the other corner of the triangle. It is surely also one that is lived out on a smaller scale everywhere, all over the world, in countless relationships and marriages.

3.) Did you consider another time period in which to base your story? If so, why or why not? (Although I must admit Victorian England is perfect for so many reasons.)

Naturally, I did consider basing it in the time when it took place, Tudor England. But in the end I thought it would be easier to explore the characters if they were all moved forward in time, a little closer to home in the Victorian era. I love the whole culture and artistic atmosphere of the Victorians – the revival of Gothic architecture, the Pre-Raphaelite painters, the extravagant fashions. It was easy to find surrogates for Henry, Anne and Wyatt there. Also, the Victorians underwent their own crisis of faith - the influence of Darwin and the threat this represented to the Church – just as the Reformation threatened the Church in Tudor times. Putting all that together, all those parallels, and it was easy to decide – it just had to be a Gothic romance.

4.) You have written about Queen Elizabeth and now Anne Boleyn. What other historical women would you like to write about? Any men perhaps?

There has always been a hero as well as a heroine in both these stories. It is through the male perception that the women are mostly portrayed – which, being male myself, is only natural I think. In my first novel ‘Virgin and the Crab’ it is the astronomer and alchemist John Dee who becomes the companion and mentor to Elizabeth – and we follow her story largely through his eyes. And in ‘The Arrow Chest’ it is the painter Amos Roselli who becomes the ‘Tom Wyatt’ or ‘Lancelot’ figure, the 3rd corner of the triangle and who experiences the life of the heroine – her name is Daphne – through his own perceptions. I think us boys need to tread carefully if we attempt to tell a woman’s story entirely from a woman’s point of view. I’m not saying it’s impossible, just pretty difficult, and there are lots of wonderful women novelists who do the job perfectly well already.

As for my next heroine – well, she might be someone without a famous name. Though, to be sure, there are plenty of marvelous candidates among the history books for any author, male or female, to chose from.

5.) With respect to writing, have you always wanted to be a writer, or is it something that you realized later in life?

I have always wanted to either write or to paint, and have always done one or the other. You could say that writing is painting with words – though it is also much more than just that. Every good painting should also tell a story, too, perhaps. For me, they are very similar.

6.) Who are some of your favorite authors or what are some of your all time favorite books?

My tastes are not really all that exciting in this respect. Like most writers, I’m fond of the classics – so Shakespeare, Dickens, the Brontes - stuff like that. And I usually enjoy any writer who pitches a deeper message into the mix. So I have a soft spot for the spiritual dimensions of a Herman Hesse or the atmospheric intensity of a Daphne DuMaruier or Virginia Woolf. Anything with depth and intensity of colour. (There you go, painting again!) I don’t have any favourite books, either. Just whatever I happen to be reading at the time.

7.) Did anyone or any specific work inspire you to start writing?

To be honest, I really don’t think so. Not that I can recall, anyway. Just normal people from history and what we know about their lives - and great music, too, these have always inspired me to write. Looks like my inspirational wires are all crossed, aren‘t they!

8.) When you are not busy writing, what else do you like to do? What are some of your other hobbies?

I’m very fond of gardening. To build and to maintain a garden is not only a great way to keep fit, it is also one of the most spiritual things one can ever undertake. It is something that requires creativity, dedication, humility and patience. You can tell so much about a person by looking at their garden. It might be nothing more than a window box, or it might be the grounds of a palace, but it’s the way they tend it that reveals the person within. Alternatively, it might be nothing at all – no garden. And that speaks volumes, too.

9.) What can we expect to see from you next?

Thank you for asking. It will be an historical novel, for sure. That’s what I enjoy writing about most of all.

Robert thanks so much for joining us today.  Please be sure to visit Robert's website to stay up to date on all his projects.
Thanks again to Teddy of Premiere Virtual Author Tours for coordinating this interview.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Review: The Arrow Chest by Robert Parry

Publisher: Create Space
Genre: Historical fiction, romance
Paperback, 342 pages
My Rating: 87/100

About the book:

London, 1876. The painter Amos Roselli is in love with his life-long friend and model, the beautiful Daphne - and she with him - until one day she is discovered by another man, a powerful and wealthy industrialist. What will happen when Daphne realises she has sacrificed her happiness to a loveless marriage? What will happen when the artist realises he has lost his most cherished source of inspiration? And how will they negotiate the ever-increasing frequency of strange and bizarre events that seem to be driving them inexorably towards self-destruction. Here, amid the extravagant Neo-Gothic culture of Victorian England, the iconic poem ‘The Lady of Shalott’ blends with mysterious and ghostly glimpses of Tudor history. Romantic, atmospheric and deeply dark.

My Thoughts:

The Arrow Chest is the story of Anne Boleyn, Thomas Wyatt, and Henry VIII moved forward in time to occur during the Victorian era.  Gothic, dark, and romantic, it is the perfect setting for this tragic tale.
Daphne (Anne) is the distressed heroine who is swept off her feet by a wealthy and charismatic Oliver (Henry VIII).  Roselli (Wyatt) is the artist and childhood friend of Daphne, who realizes too late that he is in love with his former playmate and muse Daphne.

This trio is doomed to repeat the events that occurred over 300 years ago.  Daphne has trouble bearing an heir to Oliver.  Daphne and Roselli are a little too familiar for Oliver's comfort.  Daphne is not permitted much freedom, and Oliver becomes increasingly paranoid and mean towards her.  Throughout this story a supernatural being who bears an uncanny resemblance to Anne, only enhances the story line of the past being repeated in these characters. 

Parry's writing is very descriptive with both his characters and the setting.  I felt the gloom and damp of the Tower.  The hairs on my neck would rise occasionally.  I despised Oliver, that large odious man.  However, as much as these descriptions built the story, after a while, they become a bit too much for me.  There were also parts of the story that slowed a bit, particularly in the middle.  It could however, be that I am so familiar with Anne's story, that I know what is going to happen before it does.  Either way, I like the way he took Anne's story and put it into a Victorian context.  I don't want to give anything away, but between the supernatural elements and the way Anne fell from grace was marvelous.  This was the perfect setting for this story and Parry did a wonderful job with it.

For more information about Robert Parry, please visit his website.

Here is a trailer for the book:

Thanks to Teddy from Premiere Virtual Author Tours for including me on this tour.

2011 Challenges Met: HF