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Monday, October 31, 2011

Dueling Monsters: Dr. Moreau Recap

Thank you to everyone who participated in the Dr. Moreau portion of this year's Dueling Monsters read-a-long! I hope you enjoying getting to know Moreau - he certainly gave me the creeps ...
Be sure to check out all the reviews and see if others had the same reaction to the book that you did. And if I forgot to include your review here let me know in the comments.
  • Nick @ Lions and Men - "the novel was a fun ride through a haunted house of grotesque beasts and even more nefarious men"
  • Trisha @ eclectic/eccentric - "the main premise in this short novel is about playing god"
  • Bev @ My Reader's Block - "hands down, Wells writes a nightmare like nobody's business"
  • Erin @ Erin Reads - "Moreau [...] should appear next to this particular meaning of “monster” in the dictionary"
  • SFP @ Pages Turned - "Doctor Moreau is, in short, as psychopathic as they come"
  • Jill @ Fizzy Thoughts - "Wells managed to create a character utterly lacking in morals"
  • and mine - "The cruelty of humanity scares me more than just about anything else in this world"
One of my favorite podcasts, Guys Can Read, also read and discussed Moreau this month. You can check out their fascinating take on the book in their two part review.

Thank you to everyone who participated! I hope you had a good time with this year's monsters! Now to figure out which ones we'll pick in 2012 ...

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Call of Cthulhu - quick thoughts

by HP Lovecraft
50 pages

In this short story, a classic of the horror genre, a young man discovers references to a creepy cult in his deceased uncle's paperwork. The cult has apparently been around since the dawn of time and it's followers are quite creepy and violent. Others who come into contact with the cult - or the god behind it, Cthulhu - often go crazy and may even commit suicide. The god hails from the distant stars and personifies creepiness and chaos.

[Cover]The book is basically a summary of the information the young man has compiled about the cult. There isn't much of a storyline here. Cthuhlu is creepy, yes, but that's about all there is to it. It is a quick, rather dry, story, and I can't say that I felt strongly about it one way or the other.

I read this for part of this year's Dueling Monsters challenge. Check out Fizzy Thoughts on 10/31 to see what others thought of this tale.

The Island of Dr. Moreau

by H.G. Wells
audiobook: 5.25 hours
narrated by Simon Prebble

About the Book

Edward Prendick is rescued from a life raft at sea by a ship ship carrying an odd cargo that includes myriad wild animals and two unusual men named Montgomery and M'ling. After a series of confrontations between the crew and the two odd men, the captain arrives at their destination, a solitary island in the middle of the sea. The captain is only too glad to rid himself of the animals and the men, and forces Edward to leave the ship at well. Once on the island Montgomery introduces him to Dr. Moreau, a scientist who uses the island as the base for his experimentation. Over time Edward learns the details of Moreau's experiments on the other inhabitants of the island and he must decide for himself whether Moreau is brilliant or insane.

Why I Read It

I chose this book as my side of this year's Dueling Monsters challenge because H.G. Wells fascinates me. I don't always love his writing but I am constantly amazed by the ideas in his stories.

My Thoughts

This is one CREEPY story. From the very first time Edward steps on board the rescue ship I had the feeling that things were Not Right even though I couldn't put my finger on what exactly was wrong. Once on the island things got even weirder for Edward, and for me as the reader. I had an idea of what Moreau was up to before I started this book but I didn't have the details right.

*** SPOILER ALERT #1 ***
I didn't realize that Moreau was experimenting on animals and turning them into people. I had thought he was grafting animals parts onto human bodies. Although both are horrible, Moreau's actual experiments were worse than what I thought ahead of time. The idea that he could CREATE humanity - and that he does so with some success - is so beyond what I can accept that I had a hard time with this part of the book. Still, the issues it raised are valid ones: At what point is someone considered human? Can one loose one's humanity? If animals could communicate in our language, would we grant them humanity? 
*** END SPOILER #1 ***

As Edward learned the details of Moreau's experiments I became more and more horrified. For me it wasn't the actual experiments that got to me - it was the abject cruelty involved.

*** SPOILER ALERT #2 ***
Moreau performed vivisection on his subjects with no anesthesia, and continued his experimentation for weeks on end, sometimes until the subject died. His justification was that the more evolved one is, the less pain matters. 
*** END SPOILER #2 ***

And that, for me, is the scariest part of this book. It isn't the creatures that Moreau creates that scare me. Rather it is the fact that Moreau can literally torture other living things without a single care. He has no greater purpose - not that it would justify his actions - and he doesn't see anything at all wrong in what he is doing. The cruelty of humanity scares me more than just about anything else in this world.

I can't say that I'm a huge fan of Wells' writing style and my experience with this book didn't change that. However I am fascinated by the issues he raises and will continue to read his books as they always give me a great deal to think about.

Your Thoughts

If you read this book for the Dueling Monsters Challenge this year be sure to link up to your review here. I'm posting a list of all the reviews on Halloween so don't miss out!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Song of the Nile

by Stephanie Dray
398 pages

About the Book

From Sorceress. Seductress. Schemer. Cleopatra's daughter is the one woman with the power to destroy an empire... Having survived her perilous childhood as a royal captive of Rome, Selene pledged her loyalty to Augustus and swore she would become his very own Cleopatra. Now the young queen faces an uncertain destiny in a foreign land. The magic of Isis flowing through her veins is what makes her indispensable to the emperor. Against a backdrop of imperial politics and religious persecution, Cleopatra's daughter beguiles her way to the very precipice of power. She has never forgotten her birthright, but will the price of her mother's throne be more than she's willing to pay?

Why I Read It

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Stephanie's previous book, LILY OF THE NILE, and have be anticipating the release of this new book for months.  Stephanie was kind enough to hand me a signed copy when I saw her at the Baltimore Book Festival last month, and needless to say I dove right into it.

My Thoughts

This book completely surprised me. Based on events in the previous book I had a very clear idea in my mind of the direction the story would take in this book. I WAS SO VERY WRONG! I spent the first several chapters arguing with Stephanie in my head, insisting that she had done it all wrong. *smile* That's not to say that this book didn't make logical sense based on previous events. It is more that the story could have gone in several directions, and way it went was not the one I expected. (I realize that this all sounds rather cryptic but I don't want to say a great deal about the story - I'd rather you experience it for yourself.)

Once I adjusted to the plot of this book I began to enjoy all the characters again just as I did the first time around. I especially enjoyed Selene - she is so bright and independent!  Most of the characters introduced in this book weren't all that developed, though they didn't really need to be in order to move story ahead. Many "old" characters played important parts and I enjoyed getting to know them in different ways.

There were a few things in the book that bugged me, but not enough to dampen my enthusiasm for this series. Although I didn't expect or necessarily want the story to go where it did, Stephanie made sure that every event followed logically from previous events - I really appreciate that. So though I didn't love this book as much as I did LILY OF THE NILE, I am still highly anticipating the next (final?) book in Selene's tale!

*** Please check out the guest post that Stephanie did for me yesterday. There's a link to a really fun quiz that tells you which "bad girl" of ancient times you are most like. I'd love to hear which ones you end up with and why! ***

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Which Bad Girl of the Ancient World are you?

Please welcome author Stephanie Dray to my blog today. Stephanie is a local author who I had the great fortune to meet at the Baltimore Book Festival. I was already a fan of hers after reading LILY OF THE NILE last year, and I was super excited to have her hand me a copy of her latest book, SONG OF THE NILE. Check back tomorrow for my review of her new book!

Which Bad Girl of the Ancient World are you?
Stephanie Dray

One of the favorite presentations I give is entitled Bad Girls of the Ancient World. I love to give this talk, because most of the powerful women in the ancient world have some sort of relation to the heroine of my novel, Cleopatra Selene.

Selene wasn’t, herself, a bad girl. At least, she was never vilified the way her mother before her had been. She had a nearly unblemished personal reputation, in spite of some of the provocative things she did--many of which I explore in my new novel, Song of the Nile.

But just because she doesn’t come down to us as one of the bad girls of history doesn’t mean she was a pushover. And thinking about how they may have inspired her began to inspire me to think about who I might have been like in the ancient world.

To that end, I’ve created this fun little quiz specially for this guest blog appearance, and I’d love to discuss the results with your readers. So, here you have it. WHICH BAD GIRL OF THE ANCIENT WORLD ARE YOU?

[Heather's Note: Ends up I am Cleopatra VII - what fun! Please share your results in the comments and let me know if you think they are accurate!]

Stephanie graduated from Smith, a small women’s college in Massachusetts where–to the consternation of her devoted professors–she was unable to master Latin. However, her focus on Middle Eastern Studies gave her a deeper understanding of the consequences of Egypt’s ancient clash with Rome, both in terms of the still-extant tensions between East and West as well as the worldwide decline of female-oriented religion.
Before she wrote novels, Stephanie was a lawyer, a game designer, and a teacher. Now she uses the transformative power of magic realism to illuminate the stories of women in history and inspire the young women of today. She remains fascinated by all things Roman or Egyptian and has–to the consternation of her devoted husband–collected a house full of cats and ancient artifacts.

Sorceress. Seductress. Schemer. Cleopatra’s daughter has become the emperor’s most unlikely apprentice and the one woman who can destroy his empire…

Having survived her perilous childhood as a royal captive of Rome, Selene pledged her loyalty to Augustus and swore she would become his very own Cleopatra. Now the young queen faces an uncertain destiny in a foreign land.

Forced to marry a man of the emperor’s choosing, Selene will not allow her new husband to rule in her name. She quickly establishes herself as a capable leader in her own right and as a religious icon. Beginning the hard work of building a new nation, she wins the love of her new subjects and makes herself vital to Rome by bringing forth bountiful harvests.

But it’s the magic of Isis flowing through her veins that makes her indispensable to the emperor. Against a backdrop of imperial politics and religious persecution, Cleopatra’s daughter beguiles her way to the very precipice of power. She has never forgotten her birthright, but will the price of her mother’s throne be more than she’s willing to pay?

Berkley Trade October 2011 (Trade Paperback)
# ISBN-10: 0425243044
# ISBN-13: 9780425243046

Purchase Info
Constellation Books (Heather's Note: This is our local indie!)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Dueling Monsters: Dr. Moreau Link-up

Are you reading The Island of Dr. Moreau for this year's Dueling Monsters read-a-long? When you post your review, leave a link to it in the comments on this post. I'll be recapping the challenge on 10/31 and including links to all the reviews - don't get left out, or I'll have to sic Dr. Moreau on you!


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Book club recruiting

Over the past year my book club got smaller and smaller due to changes in the ladies lives.  We had our last meeting in May and decided to take the summer off. Then Fall came and a few die-hard members emailed me to ask when we were meeting again. The thing is, I think we need more ladies in order to make a viable group.

Because of this I'm issuing an open invitation to female readers in Maryland between Baltimore and Annapolis (or the general area) to join us for a trial meeting on Oct. 22 at Arundel Mills Mall. We'll be discussing THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN by Sherman Alexie. If you are interested let me know and I'll email you the details!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Piano Teacher (mini review)

Cover image for The Piano Teacher

by Janice Y. K. Lee
audiobook:10.75 hours
narrated by Orlagh Cassidy 

From my library's website: 

In the epic tradition of The English Patient, this gripping tale of love and betrayal is set in war-torn Hong Kong. It is 1942, and Will Trusdale, an Englishman newly arrived in Hong Kong, has fallen headlong into a passionate relationship with Trudy Liang, a beautiful Eurasian socialite. But when WWII strikes, Will is sent to an internment camp, while Trudy remains outside. Trudy is forced to form dangerous alliances with the head of the Japanese gendarmerie, whose desperate attempts to locate a priceless collection of Chinese art lead to a chain of terrible betrayals. Ten years later, Claire Pendleton comes to Hong Kong and meets the enigmatic Will. As long-buried secrets start to emerge and she begins to understand the true nature of the world she has entered, Claire learns that sometimes the price of survival is love.

My Thoughts 

I'm torn about this book. On the one hand I really, really liked Will's story. Once it got started it completely sucked me in. This part of the book is what I was hoping for from Heart of Lies. The characters were so real and their lives often so unexpectedly (to them) tragic that I did not want to stop listening. On the other hand, Claire's story, though somewhat interesting, seemed superfluous. It was merely a vehicle to bring out Will's story, and in my opinion Will's story could easily stand on it's own.

So, overall a really good book BUT you have to wade through Claire's story off and on to get there.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Dueling Monsters Kickoff: Go Dr. Moreau!

And so begins the Duel!

If you are joining in on the side of Dr. Moreau (or are at least giving him a chance) let me know in the comments.

The read-a-long starts today and you can post your review any time this month. On Oct. 15th I'll put up a call for reviews - post your link in the comments there whenever you get your review up.

And if you want to be a traitor and side with Jill and Cthuhlu (boo! hiss!) you can sign up at her blog today.

Go Moreau!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Love Times Three

by Joe, Alina, Vicki, and Valerie Darger with Brooke Adams
audiobook: 9.25 hours
narrated by Jamie Lurie, Eliza Foss, Kathleen McInerney, and Karla Kendrick

About the Book

Joe is Independent Fundamentalist Mormon and he has three wives. Together they wrote this book to help counteract the often incorrect assumptions about their culture and way of life.  Told through four perspectives, the book gives a look at the reasons behind their decision to live a polygamous marriage and the challenges and blessings that are part of their everyday lives.

Why I Read It

I was a huge fan of the HBO series Big Love and am fascinated by people who can make polygamous marriage work. This book sounds like a realistic look at a successful family; I wanted to see how they do it.

My Thoughts

One of the first things that caught my attention was the fact that this family was part of the basis for the HBO series Big Love; series creators pulled lots of details from a magazine article that profiled the Darger family anonymously. Apparently the show included quite a few situations that were taken directly from the Darger's life. Of course there were lots of other situations that were purely created for the show (and Joe was quick to point those out).

Another interesting part of the book for me was the actual relationship between Joe's wives. Alina and Vicki were cousins who both became interested in the same man. Knowing that they wanted to be part of a plural marriage they decided to pursue Joe as a pair. About ten years later, after the collapse of her own plural marriage, Vicki's twin sister Valerie became Joe's third wife. An usual situation in so many ways.

The "everyday" part of the book was the most fascinating to me, dealing with sister wives and loads of children and sharing a husband. And of course there were the logistical challenges of a family with 24 children (5 in diapers!). Since I have just one child this was the craziest part of the book for me - I can't imagine dealing with a family that large, let alone sharing my husband with other wives.

This book was a quick and easy listen. It gave me a lot of insight into a culture, religion, and lifestyle that I am not all that familiar with.  I found it well written and well narrated, and definitely worth listening to.
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