Book Review: The Scourge by Roberto Calas

scourge

 

Back to the zombies.  I figure Easter is coming…

This time it is zombies in medieval England:

God has forsaken this land.

A mysterious plague descends upon 14th century England, ravaging the country and trapping the souls of the afflicted in eternal madness. The feudal hierarchy–and even the church itself– slowly crumbles as the dead rise to feed and the living seek whatever shelter they can. The bishops of England call for calm and obedience, but one man isn’t listening.

Sir Edward of Bodiam has been separated from the woman he loves and nothing on heaven or earth can stop him from seeking her out. 

Edward and two of his knights travel through the swiftly changing landscape of England, a countryside now overrun by the minions of hell. The knights encounter madness, violence, and sorrow, but Edward fights his way ever deeper into the thickening darkness of unholy terror. 

Roberto Calas brings you along on a dark, historical tale full of love, death, and black humor. Follow Edward as he journeys to save his wife, his kingdom, and his very soul.

Very similar to The Zombie Bible series by Stant Litore.  But where Mr. Litore is poetic and philsophical, Mr. Calas is humorous.  Think Monty Python with zombies.  But not so campy.

I know next to nothing about this time period in history.  My husband is a huge fan of medieval history, weapons, warfare, etc.  When he starts going on about the battle of Agincourt my eyes start to glaze over.  It’s not that it isn’t interesting, it just doesn’t interest me.  But Mr. Calas made it interesting.

Many people say that chivalry is a dying notion.  That honor is dead.  This may be true.  but no knight I have ever known can resist a maiden in distress.

Intermixed with all of the knightly adventures and the quest for Sir Edward to return to his wife, Elizabeth, are zombies.  My husband seems to think that zombies would be easily dispatched in medieval times, but he didn’t count on the power of the Catholic church.  It is thought that the zombies just have the plague:

The noises that come from the plaguer are those of an animal.  Growls and shrieks.  There is no reason.  There is no humanity.  I can feel his teeth scraping at the bevor upon my neck.  His hands shove at my helmet.  I see three red circles above his thumb.  I shove at him, but he has latched on to me, with one arm under my head.  He pulls me toward his mouth like a hungry lover and I scream.  Not in fear but in anger.

I’m always intrigued by the little differences that the authors of zombie books weave into their stories.  Be it the way the zombies began (plague, gas, aliens, or no reason at all) or how they move and act, this always fascinates me.  These zombies feel pain.  Which must make it difficult to kill them.

On his quest, Sir Edward has Sir Tristan and Sir Morgan with him.  Sir Morgan is devoutly religious.  He is always quoting scripture.  Sir Edward and Sir Tristan kind of give him hell for it.  But their discourse highlights the way Catholicism permeated everyday life during this time period.  Sir Morgan actually believes that holy relics can cure the plague.  And by the end of the book, Sir Edward starts to believe him as well.  The religious conversations were hilarious, however:

“Blessed be the Lord, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle.”

“This is the same Lord who says we shouldn’t kill?” Tristan asks.

“No, it’s the Old Testament God,” I say.  “The grumpy one.”

“You have two Gods?” Zhuri asks.

“Just one,” Tristan says.  “But he had a troubled childhood.”

I was struck at the similarities between this work and the other zombie books I’ve read.  Particularly the ones set in modern times in the US.  Apparently when the dead start walking, the world goes to shit.  There is a fundamental breakdown in society, even in the “dark ages”, and the desire to rule one’s own little kingdom is powerful.  Even at the price of precious human life.  If you are a Walking Dead fan, think “The Governor”.  These knights find this all over England.

There is a situation the knights in this story find themselves in that is quite absurd.  Think zombie bears.  Edward remarks to himself after they have barely gotten out alive (again):

I wonder how many mad tyrants rule in England now.  How many lunatic kings sit in dung-pits and throw men to their deaths.

Overall, a great read.  Full of adventure, strong characters, humor and strong relationships.  Very different from typical zombie stories in that you actually LEARN SOMETHING about history while reading them. Much like Stant Litore’s work.  I look forward to the next installments.

Oh, and a quick note, this book was originally written as a serial for Amazon in 2012.  Each episode seems to end in a cliffhanger because a new episode would be released each week.  It doesn’t detract from the work at all, but I didn’t realize that at first when I was reading, and it made sense in the author’s notes in the end of the book.

Book Review: One Thousand White Women

33512Title: One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd
Author: Jim Fergus
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Release Date: January 1998
Length: 304 pages
Series?: n/a
Genre: historical fiction
Format: paperback

Find the book: Website | Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble 

Synopsis

One Thousand White Women is the story of May Dodd and a colorful assembly of pioneer women who, under the auspices of the U.S. government, travel to the western prairies in 1875 to intermarry among the Cheyenne Indians. The covert and controversial “Brides for Indians” program, launched by the administration of Ulysses S. Grant, is intended to help assimilate the Indians into the white man’s world. Toward that end May and her friends embark upon the adventure of their lifetime. Jim Fergus has so vividly depicted the American West that it is as if these diaries are a capsule in time.

Review

*Note: This is a work of historical fiction. The author includes a note to readers about the making of this book, which did come about from an actual historical event, but has fictionalized what follows and fictionalized the actions of characters, some of which were actual historical figures of the time.

But even old money…and the equally unparalleled ability of the rich to keep dark secrets, could not completely obscure the whispered rumors that trickled down through the generations that May Dodd had actually died under somewhat mysterious circumstances…

This novel centers around the historical event of a peace conference in 1854, held at Ft. Laramie. A Cheyenne chief, Little Wolf, requests one thousand white women to be brides for his Cheyenne warriors, as their society is matrimonial. Children would belong to their mothers’ society – white man society. This was asked in hopes of assimilating the Cheyenne people, uniting two races, and creating peace. Of course, this request was met with a resounding no, and no white women ever were given to the Cheyennes as brides. However, Jim Fergus has written this novel and changed history: in his novel, the United States government sends the white women to marry into the Cheyenne tribes.

Among the wealthy, ancestral insanity has always been a source of deep-rooted embarrassment.

The novel begins with an introduction by Will Dodd, the great-grandson of May Dodd. He wonders what truly became of his great-grandmother, as his is a family of considerable money, high in the ranks of society and there is a rumored family legend that she ran off to live with Indians. Secrets are kept close to the bosom about May Dodd, the black mark in the Dodd family.

He finds a letter written from May to her two children, Hortense and William, and sets about on a journey to discover more than the mere footnote in “the heavily edited family history” in which May Dodd is mentioned in the scarcest of manners:

Born March 20, 1850…second daughter of J. Hamilton and Hortense Dodd. Hospitalized at age 23 for a nervous disorder. Died in hospital, February 17, 1876.

The rumors of May’s life fuel young Will’s yearning for true discovery of his ancestor, especially after his father wastes away the rest of the family fortune and his brother does not return from Vietnam. Will puts his college degree to good use, becoming the editor in chief of a local magazine, and stumbles upon May’s name in researching information for an article. It sparks an interest in him, and he delves deeper into his family’s archives, where he discovers May’s letter to her children. This leads Will to a reservation, where he discovers May has left several journals that have been kept safe.

The novel is broken into notebooks, serving the purpose of various points of reference and time, distinguishing significant changes in May Dodd’s life. From this point it opens up into May’s journals, with each entry meticulously dated.  In total, there are seven notebooks.Indeed, there are even some letters contained within her first few notebooks – letters to her sister, also named Hortense, and letters to the father of her two children.

May explains how she landed in an asylum – placed there at the hands of her own family. Hers is a wretched life, but then one day something odd happens: two strangers come to the institution. They are seeking volunteers to lend themselves to the U.S. government as brides for the Indians, in a back-door, hush-hush operation. Who would want to admit to the public that he’d authorized – and set in motion – for white women to be sent to breed with the savages? That would be quite scandalous, indeed.

This is an incentive for May. She could very well be free of the place! And that is just what she sets out to do, and she achieves it.

It is made clear to readers that May Dodd comes from a prominent Chicago family, who mercilessly turn their backs upon her. I find it quite ingenious that she one-ups them at their own game, little unbeknownst to them, until much, much later. She is determined to take full advantage of her newly freed soul.

Along the way, she meets other women who travel with her and will also marry. Hers is a mixed bag of women: a woman who worked at the asylum she was imprisoned within, a mulatto runaway slave, a large, brawny Swiss, a racist Southern belle, an Englishwoman author and artiste of bird life, a widow in mourning, a young girl from the asylum (believed to be the director of the asylum’s offspring), mischievous twin Irish sisters and a holier-than-thou evangelical Episcopalian.

It seems that May Dodd and I are kindred spirits: [in a letter to her sister about her Episcopalian companion]

I’m afraid that Miss White and I have taken an instant dislike to one another, and I fear that we are destined to become bitter enemies. She is enormously tiresome and bores us all witless with her sanctimonious attitudes and evangelical rantings. As you well know, Hortense, I have never had much interest in the church. Perhaps the hypocrisy inherent in Father’s position as a church elder, while remaining one of the least Christ-like men I’ve ever known, has something to do with my general cynicism toward organized religion of all kinds. 

Indeed, I do not hold stock in organized religion of any sort, after many years of seeing the selfish and unkind actions of congregations of several different denominations. In this sense, I felt a strong sense of ties to May Dodd. In addition, the satirical way the she relates her tale through her letters and her journal entries is also endearing, and it is quickly quite clear that an asylum was not in any way a need for May Dodd.

I got a bigger battery than you. 

Despite May Dodd’s privileged upbringing, she is not disillusioned into what her mission is: copulate with the Cheyenne population. She is on a secret mission (although not very secret at all of the stops along the way, it seems) to teach the Cheyennes how to live after the buffalo have gone. It is a tall order, and one that the Cheyennes do not really care for, although that is exactly what they asked for in their request.

They get a small number of wives, sent in the first shipment, and through a series of events it becomes clear that’s all they are going to get. Indeed, it seems the U.S. government has gotten itself into some hot water in hasty decisions, and must save face to the public…and in doing so is turning its collective back on the white women it sent into the wilds to live with the barbarians.

Along the way, May and her cohorts are under the direction of one Captain John Bourke. He is an actual historical figure, who served with General Crook, known to the Indians as “Three Stars.” Fergus has fictionalized Bourke in this sense, except for an excerpt at the beginning of a notebook, who grows fond of May on their short journey where he finally delivers May to Little Wolf’s tribe, but not before the two encounter one night of passion. May has been selected to be the bride of Little Wolf, the chief of one tribe on the Cheyenne.

What we risk creating when we tamper with God’s natural separation of the races will not be one harmonious people, but a people dispossessed, adrift, a generation without identity or purpose, neither fish nor fowl, Indian nor Caucasian.

This novel does carry religious, political and serious moral undertones, and Miss White’s introduction is just the beginning of this. It is continued through the Reverend Hare, who leaves the tribe in a very unsatisfactory way, grievously offending the sensibilities of the church. That being said, Fergus does not nobilize the Native American, but clearly paints the picture of prejudices of the time – prejudices that ran deep. These hatreds are realized through May’s writings, through her perspective, which I believe to be mostly unbiased (except for one conversation near the end of the novel with Phemie, the runaway slave); she clearly details the hatreds of the civilized white man, and those of the Indians as well. Neither is left morally unscathed in May’s accounts, but the white man is found to be seriously lacking, particularly in this passage:

According to Captain Bourke…the only true hope for the advancement of the savage is to teach him that he must give up this allegiance to the tribe and look towards his own individual welfare. This is necessary, Bourke claims, in order that he may function effectively in the ‘individualized civilization’ of the Caucasian world. To the Cheyenne such a concept remains completely foreign–the needs of the People, the tribe, and above all the family within the tribe are placed always before those of the individual. In this regard they live somewhat like the ancient clans of Scotland. The selflessness of my husband, Little Wolf, for instance, strikes me as most noble and something that hardly requires ‘correction’ by civilized society.  In support of his own thesis, the Captain uses the unfortunate example of the Indians who have been pressed into service as scouts for the U.S. Army. These men are rewarded for their efforts as good law-abiding citizens–paid wages, fed, clothed, and generally cared for. The only requirement of their employment, their allegiance to the white father, is that they betray their own people and their own families…I fail to see the nobility or the advantage of such individualized private initiative…

In many cases our lives were more difficult for being of mixed blood, for we were considered neither black nor white, and resented by both. 

One thing that I do not believe May ever realized is that a half-breed, like the ones the women encounter on the edges of the forts, do not have a foot in either world, are not a part of either race. In this time, if you were of a mixed race – no matter what makeup they may be – you were essentially an outcast, as the above quote (from Phemie) states. May strongly believes in her mission, until Captain Bourke, unable to relinquish his tie to May, provides some unsettling details. Her new-found life is shaken to the core.

There is no power in a baby’s hand. 

In reading this book, I had no idea what journey Fergus was taking me on as a reader, where May Dodd would eventually end up. I was left on this precipice, trying to form predictions over halfway through the book, to no avail. All things eventually begin leading in one direction, with May pushing and encouraging the direction of Little Wolf’s band of Cheyenne people, but with resistance from him until their child is born. Their daughter is unique, and Little Wolf interprets her as the Cheyenne baby Jesus, sent to save their people, but the May Dodd – and all of the other white women – know otherwise.

Fergus wraps his story up with young Will Dodd finally reaching his reservation destination, speaking with other descendants of May Dodd, and a final chapter of her life is revealed through a young monk’s final chapter in her last notebook.

The ending of this novel caught me entirely off guard, as I was unsure how it would wrap up. I am a sentimental person, and as such I can sometimes become agitated with an author’s lack of attentiveness  to what I consider a proper ending. (I know, it’s a personal thing. I’m working on it.) However, I was highly intrigued as well because I am a Cheyenne descendant, and I wanted to know how Fergus would wrap up this fictionalized tale of the Cheyenne and May Dodd’s part in it all. I was pleasantly surprised, and my sentimental side was appeased with his gentle ending, despite my broken heart.

Little Wolf and Dull Knife

I do commend Fergus for his amazing representation of May Dodd’s character. He has created her with a witty and sharp mind, and it is easy to forget when reading that this novel was written by a man, so well has Fergus created Dodd’s character.

I highly recommend this read to any and all, especially if you are not well-versed in Native American history, specifically in terms of interactions with the United States government. Given my heritage, and general fascination with this time period, I am fairly well-versed in Native American culture and history, and nothing in this novel was out of place. Fergus is honest and clear in his representation of the government (and stronghold military) and its dealings with the Native Americans, and it is starkly seen in this novel.

In addition, in the back of the novel is a reading group component comprised of three sections: a further note from Jim Fergus, a detailed interview with him, and very critical questions for book clubs. This content is usually ignored in general, I feel, but this short inclusion is well worth the few pages it’s typed on. Fergus has also included a bibliography of his research that helped him provide accurate details portrayed in the novel.

About the Author

Jim Fergus was born in Chicago of a French mother and an American father. He attended high school in Massachusetts and graduated as an English major from Colorado College in 1971. He has traveled extensively and lived over the years in Colorado, Florida, the French West Indies, Idaho, France, and Arizona. For ten years he worked as a teaching tennis professional in Colorado and Florida, and in 1980 moved to the tiny town of Rand, Colorado (pop. 13), to begin his career as a full-time freelance writer. He was a contributing editor of Rocky Mountain Magazine, as well as a correspondent of Outside magazine. During the next two decades Fergus published hundreds of articles, essays, interviews and profiles in a wide variety of regional and national magazines and newspapers. His first book, a travel/sporting memoir titled, A HUNTER’S ROAD, was published by Henry Holt in 1992.

jim_fergus

Fergus’s first novel, ONE THOUSAND WHITE WOMEN: The Journals of May Dodd was published by St. Martin’s Press in 1998. The novel won the 1999 Fiction of the Year Award from the Mountains & Plains Booksellers Association. A favorite selection of reading groups across the country, ONE THOUSAND WHITE WOMEN has since sold over 700,000 copies in the United States. The French translation – MILLE FEMMES BLANCHES – won the “Best First Foreign Novel” award, was on the bestseller list in France for 57 weeks, and has sold over 400,000 copies in that country.

In 1999, Jim Fergus published a collection of his outdoor articles and essays, titled THE SPORTING ROAD. In the spring of 2005, his second novel, THE WILD GIRL: The Notebooks of Ned Giles was published by Hyperion Press. An historical fiction set in the 1930′s in Chicago, Arizona, and the Sierra Madre of Mexico, THE WILD GIRL has also been embraced by reading groups and book clubs. Winston Groom, author of FOREST GUMP called it, “an exhilarating and suspenseful tale that makes the heart soar.”

In 2011, Fergus published a family historical fiction in France entitled,MARIE-BLANCHE. The novel spans the entire 20th century, and tells the devastating tale of the complicated and ultimately fatal relationship between the author’s French mother and grandmother.  The American edition of MARIE-BLANCHE will be published in the United States in 2014.

In the spring of 2013, Fergus published another novel in France, CHRYSISPortrait d’Amour, a love story set in 1920′s Paris and based on the life of a actual woman painter, Chrysis Jungbluth. Reviewing CHRYSIS in French ELLE magazine, Olivia de Lamberterie,wrote: “This novel is an arrow through the heart.”

Chrysis has just been published in America with the title THE MEMORY OF LOVE.

Jim Fergus divides his time between southern Arizona, northern Colorado, and France.

Find the author: Website | Blog | Goodreads

-CA

Book Review: Balls of Leather and Steel and A Gordian Web by Guy Butler

Two things drew me to this series: 1) the author shares the same name as my husband and 2) it’s WWII themed.

Here is the synopsis:

Balls of Leather and Steel

This is a story with BALLS! The leather and steel kind. 

balls Since the day he was born, Malcolm McClain has led a charmed life. By his mid-twenties he was a household name throughout Europe, recognized as one of the finest professional soccer players on the planet. At the start of World War II, Malky joins the Royal Air Force to great fanfare – a national treasure doing his part. Then he’s shot down over Yugoslavia and captured by the Nazis. 

Adolf Hitler now plans a scurrilous propaganda campaign to demoralize the British by claiming McClain has betrayed them by becoming a Nazi. 

Chez Orlowski is an unwanted orphan in Poland after first his mother, then his father dies. As a teenager, he’s protecting his sister from his abusive stepmother when he finds himself arrested and thrown into a Nazi hard labor camp. After dodging death every day, he finally escapes with only one goal in mind: to cause mayhem as a Polish freedom fighter. Chez is clever, relentless and utterly fearless in his crusade to wreak havoc and terrorize the Nazis occupying his country. He becomes a hero to the Polish people, who call him The Spider. 

When the Yugoslavian Partizani get wind of Hitler’s plans for Malcolm McClain, they vow to wreck them. Their best option involves persuading The Spider to use his special talents to extract McClain from Stalag 306 and whisk him back to safety. 

But the story does not end there…..

And for A Gordian Web:  

gordianWhen Germany invades Poland in 1939, the Nazi regime tosses dissidents into labor camps to break the will of the 
people. Every day Czeslaw Orlowski, an orphaned teenager, fights for his life in the camps then escapes to become a thorn in the side of the oppressors. By the time the Nazis retreat to Berlin, the young Pole has instilled hope in his countrymen through the exploits of the legend known as The Spider. 

With the pending Allied victory in Europe, Poland becomes a pawn played by the Soviet Union against the West. At the top of the NKGB’s agenda: find and crush The Spider. Hiding in plain sight on a farm in Western Silesia, for Czeslaw, his new bride and family it’s only a matter of time before the Russians close the noose around them. 

The Spider has only one hope—to ask the British for help. In response, a covert Special Forces Squad—The Black Widows—is launched in a clandestine extraction attempt behind Russian lines. 

In return, Czeslaw will be asked to contribute his special talents to a personal mission for Winston Churchill. 

The Spider then confronts a Gordian knot: must he keep his promise to the Prime Minister by slicing that knot—or cut the throat of his arch nemesis?

Both books captivated me.  I loved the characters, the action, the audacity of the author to plant the seed in the mind of his readers that WWII history might not be what it has been portrayed.

The first book started out a little slow, it took awhile for me to get into it, but it picks up speed around the time WWII breaks out.

I will caution those students of WWII, read this book with the suspension of reality.  The historian part of me wants to find any true accounts of these characters, but after I did find the author’s father on wikipedia, I decided to just read it with an open mind.

I truly, truly, truly enjoyed the story.  Mainly because I love all the WWII espionage, secret mission type of books and because this book is clearly written with love.  The author’s admiration for these characters is palpable.

In the second book, there are some grammatical/spelling/formatting errors, and at times the actual “plot” that Chez overhears toward the end of the book isn’t exactly clear, at least in my mind, but the aftermath is crystal clear.

Also the German/Russian/Polish interspersed throughout the book is a little confusing.  I think the author tries to provide a translation in English in the same sentence, but at times it is confusing.  I don’t know if this is because I, like most Americans, only speak English.  I had the same difficulty reading a similar book, It Never Was You by William E. Thomas, that employs German and a very vibrant portrayal of a Liverpudlian accent (scuse?).

One thing the second book does very well is to portray the difficulty faced by the Polish people toward the end of WWII.  They had suffered tremendously under the Nazis.  But after they are finally rid of the Nazis, Stalin and his boys come to town and set up shop.

Prior to reading this account, I have never truly given much thought to the Eastern Front.  I have read about Stalingrad, but in terms of these types of character driven accounts, I have been ignorant.  Mr. Butler clearly portrays the absolute horror felt by those who survived the Nazi occupation, only to suffer under another, more brutal master.

As a result, I am now reading “The Fall of Berlin 1945” by Antony Beevor.  I love it when books make me think about something I haven’t considered much before.

I also love the romance story featuring the main characters and their eventual wives.

Overall a great read.  Recommended to anyone who likes this part in 2oth century history, who likes adventure and espionage.  Very well done.

 

Amanda’s Favs for 2013 Part Two

Here is the second part of my favorites list.

These are books that I have read and haven’t reviewed. Most I get from my monthly Kindle Lending Library allotment. Some are series I picked up when the first book was offered for free.  Some of the larger press books come from my weekly library run.

Favorite zombie book:  Apocalypse Z:  Darker Days by Manel Loureiro translated by Pamela Carmell.  I found apoczthis series a year ago, and I have already pre-ordered the third installment.  I have to wait til May!! Very well written, I love the European take on things.  A page turner.  Definitely recommended.

Honorable mention:  The Zomblog Series by T.W. Brown and The Remaining by D.J. Molles.

Favorite self-help book:  Invisible Scars:  How to Stop, Change or End Psychologicalinvisscars Abuse by Catharine Dowda.  I left an abusive marriage nearly five years ago.  He never once hit me.  But the verbal and emotional abuse has caused deep wounds that I am still healing.  What I liked about this book in particular is that it gave me a name to put with some of his behavior.  That I can name some of the abuse I suffered is extremely helpful.

Favorite history book:  Lost in Shangri-La by Mitchell Zuckoff.  I reviewed his new book this year, Frozen in Time and just had to go and read this book.  

Favorite romance/erotica:  Entwined with You by Sylvia Day.  I love me some Crossfire series.  Much more realistic than “Fifty”, deals with deeper issues on the part of both characters.  Can’t wait for the fourth one.  And I think I would love to see this one made into a movie more than “Fifty”.

draculaFavorite paranormal romance:  Happy Hour at Casa Dracula by Marta Acosta.  So not what you think of when you think “paranormal romance”.  And not a typical romance either.  I loved it.

Favorite YA romance (paranormal):  Significance Series by Shelly Crane.  Very sweet, very intriguing.

 

Favorite YA romance:  Fight or Flight by Jamie Canosa.  Very heart-rending.  Extremely emotional.

Favorite mash up:  The Fridgularity by Mark A. Rayner — humorous, apocalyptic, with a technology twist.   Loved it. fridge

And my total for this year is 152 books.  And counting…

Amanda’s Favs for 2013 — Part One

It’s that time of year again.  Time for me to review (ha!) my year in reading and pick favs.  Which is kind of hard.  So this year I’m going to do something different.

I read many other books outside of what I review.  Mainly the larger press, more famous author books that I come across.  So I will divide my picks for the year into two parts.  Part one being my favs of the books I have reviewed, and part two being the books that I read “outside” my reviewing.

I am also going to ask Ms. Charliegirl to make a favs list as well.  She has been busy being Ms. Teacher, but I’m sure she can write a quick post.

So here goes:

Favorite zombie series:

Hands down, The Zombie Bible series by Stant Litore.  Earlier in the year, I read Strangers in the Land and I am currently reading Mr. Litore’s Kindle serial No Lasting Burial.  Even if you don’t like zombies, READ THESE BOOKS.  They are by far the best written books I have read this year, possibly in my life.  The writing is lyrical, thezombie4 author evokes strong emotions within a few words.  He has made me more interested in a time period that I was never really interested in before.  He makes me want to actually GO to these places that he features in his writing.  And he has ignited an interest in ancient history.

I have never read the actual Bible, I am a former Catholic and I know next to nothing about biblical stories, characters, events.  I feel so much more enlightened by this series, and even better, it includes ZOMBIES!!  So check it out.  Unless you are strictly religious and have objections to the collision of the bible and the undead, I can promise you that you will enjoy these books.

 *Honorable mention*  Undying by Valerie Grosjean is pretty awesome too.  I love her characters and the way she builds the relationships between them.  She also evoked some pretty awesome memories of the relationship I share with my husband.

Favorite sci-fi (not including zombies):  About Time by Michael Murphy.  This one was a hard category.  Butabouttimepic going back over my posts, this one stood out.  I still think about the issues brought up by this book, and it is hilarious as well.  I love books that make you think, and this one definitely did that, and more.

Favorite history book:  America’s Greatest Blunder:  The Fateful Decision to Enter World War One by Burton Yale Pines.  This book involves a time period I know absolutely nothing about.  Much of my historical reading focuses on WWII and the U.S. Civil War.  The author sent me his book and thought that given my historical preferences, I might like it.  And I did.  It went very far to help me understand the causes of WWII and it is written in a very engaging way.

Favorite historical fiction:  Pegasus Falling and It Never Was You by William E. Thomas.  These books are more than just historical fiction, they are also romance novels.  Mr. Thomas has literally reduced me to tears (in a good way) with the amount of emotion packed into his novels.  These two books aren’t serial, but they do feature some of the same characters in both books which is an interesting twist.  I can’t wait for the third book to tie it all together.

Favorite memoir:  Lucky Girl:  How I Survived the Sex Industry by Violet Ivy.  An amazing look at the sex industry written in a very engaging and intelligent manner.

Favorite dystopian (without zombies):  This category was really hard, especially since I have read so many 51K-+0aHQ4L._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-64,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_good dystopian books recently.  It is definitely a tie.  Campbell (Book One) by C.S. Starr is a very engaging story.  It not only includes a dystopian future (or present), it also closely examines how people come of age.  Very intriguing and insightful.  The Rebel Within and Rebels Divided by Lance Erlick is a little more political, but extremely inventive and engaging.  All of these books are very character driven and include extremely strong female lead characters, which makes me happy as a mom to a little girl.

Favorite mashup:  Being that I’m drawn to these books, and that several of the ones mentioned above can be considered a mash up in some way, this was extremely difficult.  But I kept on thinking about The Final Appearance of America’s Favorite Girl Next Door by Stephen Stark.  This was the book that made me take notice of this kind of writing.  Several different elements, all melded into one amazing book.

Favorite humor:  Midlife Mouse by Wayne Franklin.  This book is absolutely delightful.  Very well written, imaginative, hilarious, I loved it.  If you have ever been to Disney, have kids that are Disney obsessed, you have to read this book.

mmouse

Look for my next post about the other books I read this year.  What are some of your favs?

 

Kindle Serials– The Zombie Bible

zombie4

 

I haven’t been too enthusiastic about the Kindle serials.  I’m of the mindset that I want to read it all, and I want it now.

But this one is teaching me the value of delayed gratification.

I have written several posts on this blog praising the writing of Stant Litore.

He is probably one of the best writers I have come across during this journey of book blogging.

His writing, on its own, is just fantastic.  He weaves lyrical prose that is truly spellbinding.  His sentence structure, word choice, metaphors, are unlike any writer I have read before:

She felt small and caught–by him, by the Law, by her bereavement.  As though it were not his hands that held her but God’s, pitiless and demanding.  God’s hands that demanded that she live a certain way, fulfill commitments that were made before her grandmother’s grandmothers were born and always without any sure promise from God beneath her feet, only shifting sand, pulled out from under her by the vanishing tide.

Add in the elements of an ancient and mysterious religion (to me at least) and then zombies?  Wow.  It just adds to the satisfying smorgasbord that Litore’s writing presents.

At first I was wary of the serial concept.  But now I’m seeing it as an adventure.  Like watching “The Walking Dead” every week.  I have to wait.  To anticipate.  To wonder to what dark recesses of humanity Litore will take me.

Here is the synopsis of the serial and the story to date:

A first-century Israeli village lies ruined after zombies devour most of the coastal community. In their grief, the villagers threw the dead into the Sea of Galilee, not suspecting that this act would poison the fish and starve the few survivors on land.

Yeshua hears their hunger. He hears the moans of the living and the dead, like screaming in his ears. Desperate to respond, he calls up the fish.

Just one thing:

The dead are called up, too.

No Lasting Burial ushers readers into a vivid and visceral re-interpretation of the Gospel of Luke and the legend of the Harrowing of Hell. The hungry dead will rise and walk, and readers may never look at these stories the same way again.

Episode List
An additional episode will be delivered every week until the book is complete. New episodes will be added to the same book on your Kindle, keeping your place and retaining your notes and highlights. You’ll be notified via email when a new episode has been delivered.

Episode 1: November 12, 2013. 40 pages. When a stranger arrives in the starving village of Kfar Nahum, his eerie cries call fish up from the bottom of an empty lake—but he calls up the dead, too. 
Episode 2: November 19, 2013. 40 pages. As his town burns in the night, Shimon and his neighbors fight to survive an onslaught of the ravenous dead.
Episode 3: November 26, 2013. 40 pages. The dead have been beaten back, but Shimon’s crippled brother, Koach, and the other survivors may face even graver threats…from the living, as the priests and warriors of the land decide who to blame for the rising of the dead.
Episode 4: December 3, 2013. 40 pages. A young woman shelters Koach from a zombie-killer who is eager to stone him, and Shimon must decide what to do with a strange visitor whose body bears the bruises of stoning but who can call up both the living and the dead.

The only criticism I have is that I have absolutely no clue what some of the Hebrew words used in the story mean.  Litore tries to convey the meaning in following sentences, and the onboard dictionary helps somewhat.  But I am utterly clueless when it comes to words such as “nagar”, “navi” “shedim”.  It would just help to have a glossary or some other form of direct confirmatons on my suspicions of a words meaning.

Like I have said before, forget that this has “zombies” and “bible” in the title.  I was skeptical myself when I first discovered the series.  But the title itself intrigued me.  How can someone combine such polarizing topics in one book and make it readable?

But Litore suceeds.  Way beyond what I expected. Beyond what I dreamed was possible to be contained in a novel in the horror genre, or any genre for that matter.

I am no longer a skeptic.  This experience has totally sold me on the Amazon serial thing.  I now eagerly await the delivery of the next installment to my Kindle each week.

Check it out.  Even if you don’t think you’ll like a zombie book.  Even if you are an ardent atheist and avoid anything with “bible” in the title.  You will not be disappointed.

Book Review– America’s Greatest Blunder: The Fateful Decision to Enter World War One by Burton Yale Pines

ww1

The author of this book kindly sent me a physical copy of his work.  I read it over the summer, and now that it has been released, I can post my review.

I am a history buff.  Mainly focused on the U.S. Civil War era and WWII.  But I am always up for learning more about other periods in history.

Interestingly, my great grandfather fought for the U.S. during this war.  My husband’s grandfather fought for Italy.

Prior to reading this book, I had absolutely nothing but a vague knowledge of the WWI.  I did read Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo in high school, but it mainly dealt with the individual horror of war, and not the actual actions.

I also am a fan of Metallica, and their epic song One is about WWI.  I had an awesome A.P. history teacher in high school that screened the music video for us.

This book helped me to see the bigger picture of that war.

Here is the synopsis:

Entering World War One against Germany was America’s greatest blunder of the 20th century. America had no reason to join the 3-year-old struggle. By sending two million doughboys to the Western Front, America shattered the battlefield stalemate, allowing Britain and France to impose a devastating peace on Germany, thus igniting toxic German cries for revenge. Absent America’s entry into the war, the exhausted combatants would have sought a peace of compromise. There would have been no victor, no vanquished, no Versailles Treaty, no German demands for revenge, no Hitler and surely no World War II and even no Cold War. The tale of how America stumbled into war is told by America’s Greatest Blunder. It chronicles America’s journey from sensible neutrality to its war declaration. It then describes how legions of doughboys won the war, giving victory to Britain and France – thus launching the young century on its course of decades of unprecedented violence.

I do have to mention that having no prior knowledge of anything regarding this time period in history, I had to go back and read up on it.  That helped tremendously, but if you already have a working knowledge, you should be fine.

The author has a way of engaging the reader in a very unique manner.  He explains things like he is sitting there having a conversation with you.  I loved it.  It helped me to make connections that I might not have with regards to which nation did what and when.

It is not a dry, rote rehashing of timeline and dates, it is specifically organized to prove his point.  And it is effective.

I particularly enjoyed the glimpse of what America was like in the early 20th century.  The progressive movement, the isolationism.  I was amazed to read about the propaganda employed throughout the war.

I also think that the author made his case.  He provides convincing evidence that had America not entered the war on the side of the Allies, the horrors of the 20th century might have been prevented.  Both sides were heading toward a stalemate.  And had America stayed out, the belligerants might have been forced to a more equal compromise, rather than the harsh peace imposed upon Germany.

The author clearly spells out the groundwork that lead to WWII, and the systemic murder of millions.  It also helped me to understand the reluctance of America to engage in WWII until we were outright attacked.  I understand how fathers who fought in WWI wanted to spare their sons from the horrors of war.

Overall a great read that furthered my interest in this time period.  I’m probably going to read more about it, thanks to this book.

If you love history as much as I do, give this a try.  You will not be disappointed.

My great-grandfather Manuel Amaya

My great-grandfather Manuel Amaya

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