The Resurrection Trilogy by Elizabeth Davies

Ok.  I have gone from not reading about vampires at all to now reading vampire love stories with time travel mixed in.  Mr. Altman, my A.P. English teacher in high school, would be appalled.  What’s next?  Time traveling zombies from outer space (Stant Litore, want to take this one on?)

 

This post highlights the entire series as a whole.  I will break down each book in the following days.

I absolutely loved this series.  It is at once sobering, funny, romantic and historical.

The books in order are:

State of Grace

Amazing Grace

Sanctifying Grace 

I purposefully stayed away from the “time-traveling” genre because I’m worried my knowledge of history will make me call “bullshit” on some of the things I read.  And because my eyes cross when I think of the implications of time travel.  That kind of happened a little with the resolution of this book, but Ms. Davies make it a bit bullshit proof.  And I know next to nothing about the history of Great Britain, and even less about the middle ages, so it was all good.

What drew me to this book was the entire premise:

When Grace, 27 years old and with only a few months left to live, returns to her home town of Brecon, she is catapulted nearly 1800 years into the past. At first she attributes her hallucinations to her brain tumour but as the visions become more detailed and closer to the present day, she becomes involved with a certain wickedly handsome and rather inhuman Roman, who has an obsession with blood. 
Grace is forced to confront her fears when the past begins intruding on the present, and she falls deeper in love with her phantom man. 

‘Death is only one option.’ 

A love story with a supernatural twist, it looks at vampires from an unusual angle, knitting together the twelfth century with the present day.

 

 

As I have often stated, I am a hospice nurse.  I am always intrigued by books that portray the dying process.  Especially from the perspective of the dying person.  And everything I found in this series was right on from what I can tell from my coherent patients.

This entire series fascinated me because I always wonder what is going on with my patients as they are approaching death, as it is well know that they dream rather vividly.

The portrayal of what her family is experiencing is spot on as well.  The helplessness that her family feels watching her deteriorate, Grace’s desire to keep her health status from her friends.  Even the impact her illness has had on her relationship status.  All is very common, very real to the terminally ill person.

And despite the rather somber state Grace is in, she still has a rather wicked sense of humor.  I love her.  She is strong, she is independent, and even though she finds herself in ridiculous situations, she still retains her stubborn streak.

The romance she experiences during what she believes are hallucinations is quite erotic.  This isn’t erotica, but there is vivid and very steamy sex scenes.  Nothing gratuitous or crude.  Very tasteful and it is very meaningful to the story rather than being a book about sex with story in between.  The relationship develops over the entire series at an even pace and is very real and palpable rather than being contrived from beginning.

The vampires are a bit different, and that is one thing that I enjoy from reading each writer’s different take on the genre.

I also want to make mention of the covers for the three books. In this post you see all three.  And you can see how they are different.  I think that was a really cool concept to have Roman, the romantic male lead character, concealed by on the first cover, then a bit more revealed in the second, and fully turned to face front on the third.  Excellent idea.  Coincides greatly with the progress of the books. And it is also exactly how I pictures Roman.

Look for my review on book one, State of Grace, tomorrow.

 

Book Review: The Scourge: Nostrum by Roberto Calas

In these times of madness, only madness will save us.

Zombies, knights, hilarity, Sir Tristan.  I’m in love….

nostrum

This is the second book in The Scourge Series by Roberto Calas, here is my review for book one.

Here is the synopsis from Amazon:

Sir Edward Dallingridge survived his journey through the anarchy that is now England, leaving in his wake the bodies of mad lords, foul invaders, friends, and the risen dead. There was nothing on earth that could keep him from the woman he loves.

Nothing but the horror that has already consumed her.

His journey is over, but his mission is far from complete. As a knight of the realm, he has defended England from every enemy it has. But how does one drive away a plague sent from hell? His only hope lies in the rumors of a cure–a treatment concocted by a strange man on an island fortress. Edward will do everything in his power to find this alchemist and to bring Elizabeth back from the walking terror she has become.

This book is again a serial, and is a bit darker, considering  the end of the first book.  The adventure continues for Sir Edward and Sir Tristan, but with the addition of others such as Belisencia, a “nun” they come across in their journey.  Her presence adds some much needed female comic relief and her interactions with Sir Tristan are hilarious.  And again, Christianity and the church are often the butt of the jokes:

“Barbaric?” Tristan asks. “And why are they any more barbaric than Christians?”

Belisencia scoffs and looks away.  “There’s no sense talking to you about it.”

Tristan laughs.  “Go on, tell me.  I would like to know what’s more barbaric than drinking the blood of our savior every week.  Or eating his flesh.” He laughs again and sweeps his hand to encompass the countryside.  “Maybe all of these plaguers are just good Christians that got carried away.  They’re drinking everyone’s blood.  Maybe they are more devout than any of us.”

I love how the zombie apocalypse in medieval England pretty much mirrors the zombie apocalypse in every other time period and part of the world that I’ve read.  Makes me think that no matter where or when, humans are humans and will probably devolve to their baser elements when the fabric of society is torn apart:

The afflicted are not the worst thing about this new England. Plaguers are hungry and desperate.  I understand those motives.  What, then, are the motives of the survivors?  Power?  Avarice? Cruelty? Of the two groups, the unafflicted survivors are the greater threat.  I am uncomfortable with what this implies about my kind.

Like I said in my earlier review, I know NOTHING about this time period, outside of what I’ve seen in Monty Python.  And this reminds me much of Monty Python.  But Mr. Calas is very gifted at understanding that not all of us readers know what a bevor (?) is, and works very diligently to make sure we aren’t completely lost.  He makes all of the knight stuff palatable.  And funny:

Every priest dreams of sainthood.  Every merchant dreams of riches.  And every knight, no matter how much he may deny it, dreams of slaying a dragon.  It is in our blood. Tristan and I nearly knock each other to the ground in our haste to reach the creature.

Another feature I love of these books, maybe it is just a serial thing, is the historical notes at the end.  Mr. Calas has done extensive research into his writing.  Sir Edward was a real person with a real castle.  A good number of the events were based in some sort of reality.  Even the dancing mania AND the dragon (you have to read about it).  I truly appreciate these types of works that are based in some sort of reality.  And then the author just runs with it.

Again, I highly recommend this series.  Fulfills my zombie requirement, humor requirement, history requirement all in one book.  A must read.  I can’t wait to see how it all ends.

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 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?

 

Book Review: Mercy Row by Harry Hallman

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I was drawn to this book 1) because my husband is Italian and 2) he is from the greater Philly area.  And because I love historical fiction.

I was taken in by this book from the first page.  Here is the synopsis from amazon:

Mercy Row is a novel set in 1920s and ’30s Philadelphia. It is the story of the rise of a North Philadelphia crime family that was also responsible for building the homes and factories that make up this blue-collar area of the city. Despite the violent trials and tribulations caused by rival gangs from South Philadelphia and Chicago, Jacob Byrne and Franklin Garrett, with the help of the Irish immigrants who settled the Kensington area, build a formidable Irish mob.

This legal and criminal enterprise kept North Philadelphia free from the mafia for two generations. Jacob’s and Franklin’s organization was built on the blood of those who opposed them, the sweat of the laborers who built North Philly and the tears of the wives and mothers whose loved ones were lost in the struggle.

The first thing I noticed about this book is that it is incredibly violent and uses a plethora of foul language.

That isn’t a problem from me, as I read zombie books and I’m from the Northeast, where “curse” words are part of the everyday venacular.  But I could see how this could put off some readers.  But what can you expect from a book about this time period?

I was quickly sucked into the world of Jacob, Frank and their associates.  I loved the loyalty and friendship between these two.

Mr. Hallman’s depiction of these “gangs” is reminiscent of “Boardwalk Empire”.

Hallman doesn’t give the day by day activities of this group, just enough info for the reader to get a feel for the characters of Jacob and Frank and how they operated.

And the action is relentless.  Tommy guns, speakeasies, dames, corruption all feature prominently.

The book jumps a decade about halfway through.  Not too many books can do this, and keep the flow and overall tone of the book alive.  Mr. Hallman does both of these.

It was fascinating to see how the gang was set up to transition from bootlegging to other enterprises with the repeal of prohibition.

It was touching to see Jacob soften with regard to his family.  He was still ruthless when it came to protecting that family, but the entire concept of “Mercy Row” was about the love he had for his daughter.

I loved this depiction of Philly.  I kept on reading quotes to my husband to get his take on what was written.

I’m eventually going to have him read it as well. 

He will particularly find interesting the entire scene in Oxford, Pennsylvania.  The town was described to me years ago exactly as Mr. Hallman has written.  Nearly word for word.

Overall a quick, entertaining read.  It gives an amusing account of this city in the early part of the 20th century.

I do hope we hear more of Jacob and Frank and their exploits in the future.

Book Review: Pegasus Falling by William E. Thomas

© Rglinsky | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos

© Rglinsky | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos

I initially wrote this review for ireadabookonce.com.  You can see the post on that website here.

This is an amazingly powerful book.  It is part of a trilogy, and the second part is due this spring.  The book is written by William E. Thomas, who was recruited into the Parachute Regiment in the British army during WWII.  He was a decorated soldier during his numerous drops into enemy territory.  According to the “about the author” section, Mr. Thomas began his writing career after he retired from a civilian position as a lab technician.  In 2006, Mr. Thomas was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and now resides in a care center.  His family is promoting his literature.

Here is the plot summary (from amazon.com):  “Arnhem, 1944. Captain Stanley Adam Malcolm Parker – Sammy to his friends – and his platoon have fought bravely, but it was always a losing battle. The bridge was unwinnable. After he and his men are forced into cattle trucks and transported across Germany on a three day journey without food or water, Sammy lashes out at an SS officer with brutal and devastating consequences…for him and his German opponent.

Instead of spending the rest of his war as a POW, Sammy is sent to a concentration camp.

Spared an immediate death, Sammy discovers firsthand the full horror of the final solution. Amongst the desperation and destitution of the camp, he encounters Naomi, a Jewish housewife from Dresden. Having seen her family murdered, Naomi has learned to survive by making the most unimaginable of sacrifices. She is the woman who Sammy comes to depend on to survive himself.

But when the camp is finally liberated, the couple are separated and Sammy embarks on a journey across a continent devastated by war and wracked by ongoing tensions to find out what happened to the woman he loves.”

Initially, I was confused about the characters and the timeline.  There are different chapters, but from one paragraph to another many months may have passed.  It was difficult at times to figure out the ‘when’ and ‘where’ and ‘who’ of a passage.  But as the book continues, the reader gets used to this type of formatting and begins to look for the “clues” to the time frame and character with each new paragraph.  If I would change anything about this book that would be it:  making the chapters more succinct and clarifying the characters.

Another issue was the different phrases and use of the German language throughout the book.  Perhaps being American puts me at a disadvantage here, as most Americans only speak English (and poorly at times).  But I think something is lost when the reader is unable to figure out the communication between some characters.  For example:  when Sammy is first encountering the Germans, almost a full page of German is used. Occasionally a device will be employed to convey the gist of the conversation, i.e. someone translating, but overall I found myself lost during those passages.

Additionally, British spellings and British idioms are used throughout.  The onboard dictionary loaded into my Kindle was extremely helpful, but the majority of times, the term I was searching for could not be found. I enjoy learning these new terms, but sometimes it is difficult to read through, especially when the reader can only understand every third word.  But it did lend a truly interesting tone to the entire book.

This book is a very powerful piece of literature.  It is extremely moving, emotional, and raw.  The story is engrossing, a page turner at times.  I did not expect it to be so romantic, and I am amazed that a man was able to pour that much emotion into the book.  It is at once a testament to the horrors of war, a love story, a history of the Holocaust and the subsequent founding of the nation of Israel.

The love story on many accounts is amazing.  The idea of someone surviving something as horrible as the Holocaust because of the love of another is mesmerizing.  The reader actually aches during the passages that feature separation.  It is also a commentary on different types of love.  Love between man and wife, love between fellow survivors, love between friends.

Overall, I give this book a 4.5 star rating.  I am intensely anticipating the next installment.  The entire work is collectively called The Cypress Branches, and the second part is to be released soon.  I will be one of the first in line (figuratively) for this book.

Favs for 2012

As of right now, I have read 125 books this year.  All kinds of books, across all genres.  Mainly ebooks.  Due to my financial situation during the last half of the year, most of the books were free via the kindle lending library or on smashwords.  I also review books posted on bookbloggers.net.

This year I started branching out of my usual reading patterns and started reading more horror, romance and erotica.  Thanks to the phenomenon of “Fifty Shades of Grey”, apparently most women have started on the “mommy porn” craze.  You can read my ideas on “Fifty” here and here.

And zombies!! I started watching “The Walking Dead” after the first season, yet I didn’t start reading zombie books until this year.  And now I’m hooked.

Here is a list of my favs (that I read) this year, in no particular order:

Crossfire trilogy by Sylvia Day– I love this romance/erotic series much more than “Fifty”, I outlined my reasons above.  I just feel that it is more realistic, better written, and takes in to account that 1 in 4 women are sexually assaulted in some way during their lifetime.  This in mind, some of the BDSM presented in “Fifty” are huge triggers for survivors.  Can’t wait for the next book in May 2013.

Future Perfect by Tony Bayliss– My fav religous/political statement book.  Very intense and thought provoking. For another amazing read, try Past Continuous as well.

There Goes the Galaxy by Jen Thorson – Fun, hilarious, an epic journey through space.  Absolutely loved it.

Double Cross:  The True Story of the D-Day Spies by Ben Macintyre – I am a huge fan of these books.  Yes, spy books are fun, but these are TRUE spy books outlining the missions and lives of real spies who helped to save the world.

Automaton by Cheryl Davies – futuristic sci-fi with a romantic twist.

Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins – what more can be said?

Faking It by Elisa Lorello – my first foray into a different kind of chik lit.

War Brides by Helen Bryan – I love historical fiction, this book was very emotional and provided a different perspective on WWII.

And I can’t pick a favorite zombie book…I loved all of the ones I read, check through my reviews.  I love the Zombie Bible series by Stant Litore, I finally read World War Z by Max Brooks and the Zombie Orgins Series by Kristen Middleton is funny and thrilling.

Any suggestions for 2013?  Any new genres I should explore?  What are your favs for this past year?

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