What the Heck Did I Just Read?

Have you ever asked yourself this question after finishing a book? I just did.

To be honest, I don’t read a lot of “recommended” books. Not because I don’t trust other readers, but because I know my reading tastes. That said, when one of my friends who doesn’t normally recommend books told me I absolutely had to read this book because it was “amazing” I took a shot, and picked up Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer.

Now, I could take this time to write a traditional review – tell you about the book, the characters, what I liked and didn’t – but I’m not going to do that. Instead, I’m going to tell you what this book taught me.

*This book taught me that it’s ok to read outside my “usual” genres. I do not read horror. I do not read suspense. I like sleep too much. Yet this book is considered both horror and suspense, and I read it from start to finish in one sitting. But to be fair, there’s no gross blood and the suspense is all mental. That’s a suspenseful horror I can get behind.

*This book taught me that character names  are more than just titles. So, none of the characters in this book have names. At all. Rather, they are referred to by their job (i.e., “the biologist” or “the phychologist”). I find that the lack of names made me suspicious of ALL the characters, no matter what actions they took. The biologist is presented as the main character, and I found her highly unreliable. In this case, the old adage that “names have power” is relevant; somehow, knowing a character’s name creates a sort of relationship between the reader and the character – a sense of camaraderie. In this case, I felt no connection to the characters, and so trusted nothing about them.

*This book taught me secrecy, the unknown, and insanity can be more terrifying that a serial killer. There is nothing in this book that is reliable. It’s impossible to know what’s real and what’s only in the characters’ minds. The untrustworthiness of the characters made me question everything. The tension is palpable, and the sense of foreboding and dread builds so slowly I almost didn’t realize what was happening until the tiny clues along the way that initially seemed so unimportant suddenly all come together into a truth insidious and alien.

*This book taught me setting can function as character. Area X is as important an element to this story as is any of the human characters. In many ways, it’s more interesting than any of the human characters, too. It’s more dynamic, if not more mysterious. The greatest danger of Area X is unseen, but is present in the effect it has on the human characters manifesting as terror, insanity, and unnatural physical transformation.

*This book taught me resolution isn’t always the endgame. So, to loop around and back to my initial question: What did I just read? I literally can’t answer this. Because the book doesn’t have a resolution. Oh, it has an ending, but it isn’t a pretty, satisfying, wrap-up-all-the-loose-ends ending. In fact, by the end of the book, I didn’t really feel like I knew anything more than I did at the beginning of the book. And, somehow, I was ok with that. Area X is an unsolved mystery.

So, the long and the short of it is, exercise your reading muscles every now and then, and choose something you wouldn’t normally read. Take a chance. You may end up reading something that you completely hate, but, then again, you may end up reading something that you absolutely love – like I just did. So much, in fact, that I devoured the other two volumes of the Southern Reach trilogy, Authority and Acceptance, in four days.

And to those of you who have read Annihilation, riddle me this: with regards to Area X – is that the letter X, or is it the Roman numeral ten?

Star Wars is Life.

Star Wars. Is there a better name for literally anything? Definitely not. And especially not the magic that is the Star Wars Universe.

I remember my first introduction into the Star Wars world. I was about five years old, and I was at my grandparents’ house where my parents, aunt and uncle, and grandparents had congregated to watch Return of the Jedi for the first time. My sister and cousins and I were supposed to be in the other room playing, but I was curious about what they were watching, so I snuck around the corner and laid in the back of the living room watching something I would forever after consider a cornerstone of my childhood. I felt worry as Luke fell into the Rancor pit in Jabba’s palace; I felt awe as the Rebel fleet blasted through space; I felt adoration of the furry little Ewoks; I felt terror of Lord Vader. And this sparked a lifelong love and appreciation for what I consider to be one of the greatest cultural phenomenons of my lifetime.

I was in high school when the original trilogy was rereleased into theaters, and stood in line with hundreds of others to experience the magic of Star Wars on the big screen. I had watched all three films of the original trilogy dozens of times by then, and could nearly quote them word-for-word, but seeing them in that environment was like seeing them for the first time. I love the new additions to the universe (with, perhaps, the exception of Jar-Jar Binks. I mean, really? What were they thinking?), and mostly consider them valuable additions (if some of the acting is a little sub-par. But not Ewan MacGregor and Liam Neeson. And Jimmy Smits. They are the saving grace of the prequel trilogy, IMHO). And Rogue One? Stellar.

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So, all this to help you understand how excited I was when I heard about From A Certain Point of View, the anthology of forty short stories written to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of the original Star Wars. I realize there are a plethora of Star Wars books written by many talented authors that add to the larger Star Wars universe; I haven’t read them all. In fact, I haven’t even read most of them. I read a select few years and years ago, and then James Luceno’s Catalyst when it came out because I wanted to know more about Galen Erso. But the premise of this newer foray into the Star Wars world intrigued me. An alternative telling of Star Wars: A New Hope from the POV of all the margin characters? Yes, please, I demand you take my money.

And it was so. very. cool.

Forty stories is a lot. That’s a lot of characters I didn’t even realize weren’t highlighted in the original movie. I mean, we get stories from characters like the band in the cantina on Tattoine, Jawas, Tuscan raiders, the R2 unit with the “bad motivator”, even characters like the officer who failed to shoot the escape pod that carried R2 and 3PO to Tattoine, and the “garbage monster” on the Death Star. Were the stories all great? No. There were a couple where, as I listened (to the audio book), I found my attention wandering (“Kloo Horn Caper”, I’m looking at you), but some of them were utterly fantastic. There were all written in the spirit of Star Wars, and absolutely add to the lore.

A few words about the stories I particularly liked:

  • “Master and Apprentice” – My heart literally skipped a beat when I heard the Master’s voice. I didn’t realize how much I missed Qui-Gon Jinn until I listened to this story. I always liked the dynamic between Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan, and this was a lovely testament to that relationship.
  • “Added Muscle” – A cool and funny little ditty about Boba Fett and what he really thinks about serving as Jabba the Hutt’s hired thug.
  • “Born in the Storm” – OK. I never thought of a Stormtrooper as being funny, but this story literally had me laughing out loud in my car – you know, when you’re a double dork because you’re cracking up and there’s no one to hear you? Yeah, like that.
  • “There is Another” – Yoda is one of my favorite characters, and I really liked this glimpse into his life on Degobah – the heartbreaking loneliness he experiences in the wake of losing everyone he holds dear, and the tiny glimpse of hope he allows himself to feel at the possibility of training another young Skywalker.
  • “An Incident Report” – Bahaha – this is told from the POV of Admiral Motti, the dude Darth Vader Force-chokes in the staff meeting on the Death Star.
  • “Time of Death” – All the feels. Every single one of them. But it’s an Obi-Wan story, so also all the awesome.
  • “The Angle” – Lando, oh, Lando. You scoundrel.
  • “Palpatine” – This. Is. Bloody. Brilliant. In all honesty, probably a better listen than read, though.
  • “Whills” – This hilariously tells the tale of two historians arguing about how to chronicle a cultural phenomenon known as Star Wars.

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A few random thoughts about some of the other stories…

  • In the words of Sheldon Cooper, “Wheeaaaaaatooooooonnnnnnnn!” Yup, he got me. Right in the feels.
  • Pierce Brown should write more Star Wars stuff.
  • I will never look at Grand Moff Tarkin the same way again. But, seriously, it makes so much sense. How did I not know???
  • “Wookiee aggression.” Hahaha.
  • Owen Lars has small man syndrome.
  • Leia got the short end of the stick.
  • Jabba the Hutt was always gross.
  • Never, never assume that just because a character isn’t the star, they aren’t important.

If you’re a Star Wars fan in any capacity, take the time to read (or listen to) this. It’s definitely worth it. Personally, I’ll never watch Star Wars in the same way. And I sincerely hope they do one of these for Empire and Jedi‘s fortieth anniversaries, as well.

May the Force be with you. Always.

 

A Bittersweet Farewell

As a self-proclaimed loner/introvert, I am one of those people who spends a lot of time alone.  This has always been the way of things, and it means that I’ve always enjoyed solitary activities – reading, writing, wandering.  I am also one of those completely insane people who love school, and actively look for new things to learn.  I am a #historybuff, and have always had a fascination with all things ancient in general, and Egyptian in particular. Independently of any assignments or school requirements, I learned about the history of Egypt, its deities, and its mythology.  Yes, nerd.

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Years (and years and years ago), one of my reading buddies (one of the rare friends I’ve known since childhood, and retained into adulthood) introduced me to the Amelia Peabody mysteries, penned by Elizabeth Peters (a nom de plume for Barbara Mertz).  I was in my late teens, and immediately fell in love with the clever, feisty Englishwoman and her larger-than-life husband, Emerson.  Their adventures were ones I reveled in – chasing criminals across the desert and through famous ruins, discovering lost treasures, championing equality for all – and I looked forward to each new installment of the series with excitement.

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One of the things I really liked about the series was the characters.  I appreciated how independent and forward-thinking Amelia Peabody was, and how she acted as if equality for all people – regardless of sex, race, or upbringing – was a given, rather than a right.  She was confident, she was brave, and she did not let others push her around.  And above all, she was clever, and used her intelligence to her advantage to get her out of all sorts of trouble.  Emerson, likewise, was written as an evolved character.  In a time period where men were intimidated by women who exhibited intelligence, courage, and autonomy, Emerson reveled in the fact that his lady love possessed all these qualities – and more.  He did not try to stifle her, he did not try to protect her; rather, he looked to her as an equal.  Additionally, he is awesome even on his own.  He’s brilliant, brave, determined, and just the kind of man others respect respect because he deserves it, not because he demands it.  Peabody and Emerson (and their son Ramses – but that’s another post), are among – and even at the top of my list – my all-time favorite literary characters.

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Alas, the era of Victorian gentlewoman Amelia Peabody Emerson is, indeed, over. Back in 2013, when I heard Barbara Mertz had passed away, I was profoundly saddened.  There would be no more Peabody/Emerson adventures, and I would miss them deeply.  So, in 2016, I was ecstatic to hear that Joan Hess would be producing one final volume, called The Painted Queen, based on Barbara Mertz’ planned plot and notes – a mystery surrounding the 1912 discovery of the famed bust of Nefertiti. And even though I knew it couldn’t be *exactly* the same as a Peters novel, at least it would have my beloved characters.

It goes against everything inside of me to give a negative review of this book. And to tell the truth, I didn’t dislike it. If it were a standalone title, and I didn’t have the rest of the Peabody canon to consider, I would think it a wonderfully fun adventure full of colorful characters. But it’s not a standalone. And though I think Hess did an admirable job of taking up Mertz’ mantle, something that had to have been infinitely difficult, I do think she fell a bit short of the mark.

Aside from the obvious continuity errors (of which there are many), something just seems a little off about the novel. It’s not the story – that was well done. The mystery is mysterious, the danger is dangerous, and the villain is villainous. Rather, it’s the characters themselves that I find problematic. Having read nineteen other entries in this series – all multiple times – I have gotten to know these characters quite well. And I find that, as written in The Painted Queen, they are all slightly off-center. Let’s look at them:
Amelia Peabody has always had an appreciation for whiskey and soda, and for adhering to mealtimes in an effort to retain a modicum of “civilization” in an “uncivilized” environment, but in this book, she is overly preoccupied with alcohol and with all the food. I mean, squirreling sandwiches away in her pockets and mentioning food every other page? If she had eaten so much through the entire series, she would have had to have a new working outfit made every season, and have her belt of tools resized to accommodate her expanding girth. This is not the same character I included in my Top 10 Coolest Book Characters post here.
Emerson has always been one of my favorite characters. In fact, I included him in one of my blog posts about my Top 10 Sigh-Worthy Heroes here, at my old blog home. I have a special appreciation for Emerson, because he very much reminds me of my own husband – large and imposing and blustery with a vocabulary quick to include expletives, but with a heart of gold. And I found the Emerson in this book to be a diminished caricature of Mertz’ Emerson. His suddenly-developed penchant for publicly professing his undying love and inability to live without Peabody was laughable. Everything he did was exaggerated, almost to the point of buffoonery, and it was a sad treatment of this most illustrious character.
Ramses I found to be the closest representation of the original. He is still imperious and arrogant, and his mind is still brilliant, if a little devious.
Nefret is a little trickier to discuss, because her changedness could be attributed to her harrowing (though self-afflicted) experiences reported in The Falcon at the Portal. She is demure, constantly apologizing, and annoyingly ladylike. This is not the Nefret I know and love. Yes, she made mistakes; no, she doesn’t need to change her entire personality to make up for them.
And, last but not least, there’s David, who seems to be around just for comic relief, and to make Ramses look smarter (as if that’s necessary). This annoyed me. I always admired the character of David, and considered him an integral part of the Peabody-Emerson family, as he was intelligent, yet brought a different perspective to the group. That is completely missing from this story.

So, even though it was lovely to return to Egypt for one last season with the Peabody-Emersons, it wasn’t quite what I was hoping for.

Good bye, Peabody.  You will be greatly missed.

Coffee Break: ARC Reactor

It’s no secret that I’m an unapologetic nerd.  I love to read, I love school, I hang out in libraries and bookstores, I am an avid member of many fandoms, I like the Stars (Trek, Wars, Gate, Battle, etc.), and super heroes.  You name it, I can check off the nerd box.  Luckily, my interests mesh well together.  I like being able to recognize the threads that connect the things I love.  So, when I say I consider myself an “ARC Reactor” it makes me laugh like a dork at my own joke.  Keep reading, and you’ll laugh, too – either at me for being hilarious, or with me at my extreme level of clever.  Either way, mission: accomplished.

You see, though I super-duper ❤ Batman, deep down I’m really a Marvel girl.  And Iron Man is one of my favorite Marvel super heroes, mostly because, as far as I’m concerned, Iron Man is just a brighter, flashier version of Batman.  (Those of you who are hurling tomatoes at me via your computer screens right now, just keep in mind that you’re not actually squishing me with them, and you should take it easy on your electronics.)  Hear me out.  Bruce Wayne = bazillionaire.  Tony Stark = bazillionaire.  Bruce Wayne engineers his suit.  Tony Stark engineers his suit.  Bruce Wayne is a second-generation operator of his family’s business; Tony Stark, same.  So, you see what I mean.  That said, there’s one thing that Iron Man has that Batman doesn’t (besides the bromance with Captain America) – the ARC reactor.

The ARC reactor is what keeps Tony Stark alive.  Without going into too much detail and boring you (crazy) non-comic book fans, here’s a brief explanation (inhales giant breath): Stark had shrapnel in his chest that was traveling toward his heart and would have killed him but Stark modifies one of his father’s inventions called the ARC reactor and shoves it into his chest cavity to suck the shrapnel back away from his heart and keep it from exploding.  (Whew!)  The ARC reactor also supplies the power for the Iron Man suits.  So, essentially, for Tony Stark, ARC reactor = life.

Iron Man

One of the many hats I wear is my book blogger beanie.  I love books, I  love reading books, and I love writing about books.  (Psst, sources say that’s the main reason this blog exists.)  If I could make a living reading and writing about books, this world would be an awesome place.  Alas, that’s not the case.  BUT, that doesn’t mean I can’t try to make that wish come true.  You see…

A few months before publishers release finished, gorgeous copies of books they hope will become best sellers, they release what are called Advance Readers Copies (or ARCs).  Getting an ARC is rare, because publishers only print a small number of them, and only distribute them to people they think will do them justice, like book bloggers with a large following, some librarians, and individuals they know can promote sales.  So for book bloggers like myself, getting an ARC of a popular author’s upcoming release is like finding a Golden Ticket.

The book community is an enthusiastic and opinionated one.  Also, they possess a level of devotion to their favorite authors that’s slightly creepy.  So the last two or three months before an author’s newest book is released is like pure torture for any fan.  They are desperate for any scrap of information about the new book.  This is where book bloggers with ARCs have the power.  (Right now, in my head, I see Prince Adam hoisting aloft the Power Sword and yelling “I have the POWER” while morphing into He-Man.  Yep, total nerd.)

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It’s true.  If you’re a book blogger with an ARC of the next big thing, readers will flock to your blog to read your review.  And what does every book blogger want?  READERS!  And what gets the readers?  ARCs!  So, what does ever book blogger want to do?  React to ARCs!  (You see where I’m going with this.)  So, essentially, for book bloggers, ARCs = life.

I was fortunate enough to attend the American Library Association Annual conference at the end of June, where I was able to acquire several of these coveted ARCs.  (You can read my post about that experience here.)  And every now and then, I win one through a Goodreads giveaway, as I did Hunting Prince Dracula by Kerri Maniscalco, which I recently reviewed here.  But I currently have a nice little pile of ARCs by authors I love, that I am honored to be able to review.  Thus making me a – wait for it – ARC reactor.  Bahahahahahahaha!

Monday will feature a mini-review July wrap-up post, and Tuesday, as always, an awesome Top 10 Tuesday post!

Peace out!

Top 10 Fictional Librarians

In my heart, I’ve always been a librarian of one sort or another.  When I was a child, I grouped my nonfiction books together by subject (I was BISAC before BISAC was cool).  I made spine labels by author’s last names for my fiction books.  My books were shelved alphabetically, according to author.  Yes it’s true – I’m a total nerd.  And I own it.

Also, I grew up to be a librarian.  So I’m walking, talking, sometimes-both-at-the-same-time living proof that dreams can come true.  (Note the subtle difference between can and do – unfortunately it’s not always the case, but I’m a firm believer in doing whatever it takes to achieve your goals, so here I am.)

Librarians are near and dear to my heart.  Being a librarian is a noble calling.  And so, in their honor…  Here are my choices for my TOP 10 FAVORITE FICTIONAL LIBRARIANS.

Evie Carnahan O’Connell (The Mummy)

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I love Evie so much, I can’t even.  She is seriously awesome.  She’s English, but loves all things Egyptian, so literally packs up and moves to Egypt so she can work in the library at the Cairo museum.  She’s a brilliant scholar, and actually reads the books in the library, so she knows things others don’t.  She’s brave and clever, and doesn’t let anyone get in her way.  She literally saves the world.

Barbara Gordon (Batman)

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Commissioner Gordon’s daughter is a force to be reckoned with.  Not only is she a smart and savvy librarian, she’s also Batgirl.  Shhhh!  She is educated and career-oriented, and is an effective crime-fighter.  I mean, Batman doesn’t even have to spend most of his time saving her from the bad guys (Daphne, I’m looking at you right now…)  She’s very focused on employing the best means to an end, even if that means heads gotta’ roll to get things done.

Flynn Carson (The Librarian)

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Oh, my <3.  There aren’t even words to describe how I feel about THE Librarian (Flynn Carson is THE Librarian, not those young, whippersnapper upstarts.  Though, to be fair, I do like them, too.  I’m just being clear about the hierarchy within the Library, as far as I’m concerned.)  Flynn is the best superhero ever, because he isn’t a superhero, not even a little bit.  He’s a bumbling, adorable, trip-over-his-own-feet-and-fall-into-unicorn-glitter dork who is absolutely brilliant, and when he’s home by himself in his Underoos pretends he’s Indiana Jones.

Rupert Giles (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

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Giles is just… awesome.  Sunnydale is literally the high school from (on?) hell, and this guy guards the gates.  Officialy Buffy’s “Watcher” (see: babysitter who is tasked with keeping her from doing all manner of idiotic things), Giles is a mentor, protector, and friend.  I appreciate his sass (which is master-level to stack up against teenagers), his smarts, which are unparalleled because he actually reads the books in the library, and his insistence on the strict observance of tea time (being British, after all…)

Twilight Sparkle (My Little Pony)

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LIVES in a library inside a tree, whaaat?  Twilight Sparkle is an unabashed, unapologetic book nerd who (at least initially) prefers books to ponies.  She curates a collection of rare and magical books, familiarizing herself with their content.  And it’s a good thing, too, because she gets everypony out of all sorts of road apples with her smarts ALL THE TIME.  Let me just say one more time: lives in a library.  Like, gets to sleep there, too.  #jealous

Zoe Heriot (Doctor Who)

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Two words: space librarian.  SPACE LIBRARIAN!  I feel like a mic drop is called for, but I’m not done writing this post, so…  We’ll just have to go with there’s no way to top that.  So, Zoe is the librarian on a space station that the Doctor visits.  (Because of course even people traveling to different planets need to get their Patterson fix too.)  And as if her job isn’t cool enough to sustain her for the rest of her life she needs more adventure and stows away on the TARDIS.  Seriously, Zoe Heriot is my spirit animal.

Jocasta Nu (Star Wars: The Clone Wars)

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A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away were the Jedi Archives, the galaxy’s greatest repository of knowledge, and Jocasta is the curator of that collection.  I can just see her shushing Obi-Wan when he starts waxing eloquent about something or another.  Hella wise Jedi Master Librarian. #goals  Think about it: this is who Master Yoda comes to when he needs to Google something.  Yeah, just let that thought settle.

Lucien (The Sandman)

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The chief librarian of The Dreaming, Lucien lives in an abandoned castle in Transylvania guarding its ancient library.  And he has a pet werewolf named Rover.  Wholly devoted to his task no matter what, Lucien curates a collection of books that contain all the Dreams ever dreamed, including even the ones which have never been written.  And even though he looks like a “typical” librarian – nerdy, thin and wispy with glasses – he can hold his own in a fight.

Bunny Watson (Desk Set)

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The age-old battle of Librarian vs. Computer.  Bunny Watson does what every self-respecting librarian has threatened to do at least a dozen times in their career – sets the computer to self-destruct.  And then proves to everyone around her that people are better than machines.  And she isn’t sorry at all, not one little bit.  This smart and sassy New Yorker isn’t letting technology replace her or make her obsolete.  Take note, fellow librarians.

Belle (Once Upon A Time)

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Tale as old as time: girl falls for boy because of his library…  In the classic (see: Disney) version of the Beauty and the Beast tale, Belle is a bookwork and loses herself in the Beast’s library to help her forget that she’s a captive who is stuck in a mad castle with a horrible creature and talking furniture.  That library, though…  It almost makes it worth it.  Here, though, in Storybrooke, Belle has it a little better – she’s the Lone Ranger in the town’s library which is in an awesome clocktower.  And where does she go every time another curse comes to town (the purple one, the green one, the red one…)?  The library, of course.  Because books are magic, and have the power to neutralize bad juju.

So, there you have it!  YAY, librarians!  Who is/are your favorite fictional word curators?  Chat with me in the comments!

And stand by, for on Thursday, you’re going to learn just how huge a nerd I am.  (Hint: Hulk-sized.)

11:39 – still officially Tuesday!

First the Ripper, Now Dracula

Call me crazy, but I love books based on old, murdery mysteries.  I don’t like to read about bloodbaths, but give me a good, old-fashioned mystery based on history, and I’m all in. A lot of this has to do with my interest in history; more than I’d like to admit, this has to do with my dark sense of curiosity.

Kerri Maniscalco is an author after my own heart.  She has chosen to tackle some of the most iconic historic mysteries possible, and has given them new life (haha) and a new spin.  I am a firm fan.

I read Stalking Jack the Ripper (the first book in this series) shortly after it was released, and was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the story-telling from debut author Kerri Maniscalco. Having done very little research on either the book or the author before reading, I was excited when I got to the end of the book, and it was clear there was going to be a sequel. History buff that I am, I was as ecstatic as only a nerd can be to discover the next installment of the Wadsworth/Cresswell adventures would take them to Romania and settle them within the Dracula mythology. I had high expectations for Hunting Prince Dracula. I was not disappointed.

If anything, from the first book to this, Maniscalco’s writing has gotten better (as is natural), and her story-telling voice has grown stronger. Where there were a few times in Ripper I felt the leaps in logic were a little long-strided, I didn’t feel that way at all with Dracula. The plot is very thoroughly laid out and described, and doesn’t miss any steps. Though the mystery reveal is well-hidden until the end of the book, the reader isn’t kept in the dark at all when it comes to necessary clues and information. As far as the story itself, I found it to be very satisfying.  (And darned if she didn’t get me again with the twist!)

One of the things I really like about these books is the relationship between Audrey Rose Wadsworth (though I still cringe at that name – I mean it’s really, really terrible) and Thomas Cresswell. There is a mutual admiration and respect between the two of them that isn’t based on attraction, and that’s a rare find in YA fiction these days. Yes, it’s evident that the two of them have feelings for one another, but that is not the basis for their relationship. Cresswell appreciates Wadsworth for who she is; he isn’t intimidated by her intellect, he allows her to take risks, and doesn’t feel threatened by her independence. And Wadsworth understands Cresswell’s want to protect her and doesn’t deride him for it (though she does throw in a perfectly understandable eye-roll every now and then).

Something else unique about these books is the profession Wadsworth and Cresswell are working their way into. Maniscalco has chosen something out of the ordinary – forensics – for her characters to study, which is something that sets them apart from others of their social cohort. It’s not strictly “ladylike” for a high-born girl like Audrey Rose to be elbows-deep in someone’s gizzard, but does that stop her?  Definitely not.  And good thing, because their knowledge of all things dead also gives Wadsworth and Cresswell a slight advantage when it comes to investigating the crimes that take place in the book. Their unconventional training gives them an unconventional perspective on things, and their partnership gives them strength.

I really liked how this book isn’t an over-the-top “vampire book”. Rather, it acknowledges the history of the setting, and allows that history to color the mystery, but doesn’t for a second try to convince readers that Dracula is behind the murders. I believe that would have brought into question the credibility of the characters. The characters solve a real mystery, instead of chasing ghosts and goblins. And, also, readers (mostly) aren’t stupid, so better not to waste time trying to convince them of the existence of vampires.

Overall, this is a fun book, compulsively readable and clever. I am definitely looking forward to the next installment of the Adventures of Wadsworth and Cresswell – in America! (And I’m having a dickens of a time trying to figure out who the big bad will be this time.  It would be too much of a time gap for them to be after H H Holmes, and too late for Billy the Kid…)

Little, Brown and Company/Jimmy Patterson Books provided me with an advanced reader’s copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Tomorrow, on Top 10 Tuesday, tune in for a list of the Top 10 Fictional Librarians!  Because, well, who’s cooler than librarians?

Top 10 Reading Confessions

So, reading is kinda my thing, and has been since I was a very small child.  I grew up in a rural area, and it was just my parents, sister, our animals, and I on 250 acres of farm and woods.  (Don’t get me wrong – we had friends and went on trips and vacations and whatnot, but our everyday life was quiet, and a little isolated.)  I read a lot.  Those were the days – I could get up and get my chores done, and then disappear into my tree fort for the rest of the day with my book and a sack lunch.  Reading was part of my daily life; I always had a book in my hand, no matter where I was.  And that has not changed.  If I could make a living as a professional reader, I’d sign up in a heartbeat.  (Publishers, you hear that?  I’m available.  Just so you know.)  My husband says I have a “problem”; I say it’s a gift.  (Husband is wrong, btw.  Just in case that wasn’t already clear.)

When one reads upwards of 100 books a year, it’s inevitable that one will develop some reading tricks and preferences.  It’s also inevitable that said reader has habits, loves, and dislikes when it comes to reading, and to books in general.  BUT not everyone is willing to talk about these most guarded of secrets.  I am.  I’m here to confess.  And this is what I have to say.  (You may want to take notes.)  Side note: there’s no order to these – number 1 isn’t any more important than number 10 – it’s just how I thought of them.

  1. If a book is really good, I cast its movie in my head.  In addition to books, I like movies.  Correction: I like well done movies.  So when a book captures my attention/imagination/love, I want to experience it in as many forms as I can.  I think this also comes from me being a writer, and a visual learner; when I develop characters in my own work, I find a photo of someone who resembles what the character looks like in my head.  Sometimes it is an actor/actress; sometimes it is a celebrity.  It may have to do with a character they once played, or it may be that they simply look the part.  It’s a habit, and when I read, I assign faces to characters.  It happens, deal with it.  (You, over there, you who doesn’t think that the movie is ever better than the book and that movies aren’t worthy of book inspiration – all I’m going to say is: The Prestige.)  I love it when books are made into movies, and I have no problem when the movies is different from the book.  “Sacrilege!” you cry.  “More versions of what I love,” I respond.
  2. When I see huge chunks of exposition, I skim.  Some description/exposition is completely fine.  Entire pages of it?  Ain’t nobody got time for ‘dat.  I loathe info dumps.  This may be why I am staunchly against most prologues.  Yes, some authors (Clive Cussler and Maggie Stiefvater come to mind) use prologues masterfully; most do not.  I find prologues to be a convenient way for writers to be lazy, and rather than find creative ways to fill in backstory or detail, they rely on a prologue to do it for them.  Same goes for huge paragraphs of description within the narrative.  Bo-ring.  Give me the info in dialogue or in small bits, not in super-size, coma-inducing boulders.  Show me; don’t tell me.
  3. I judge a book by its cover.  Well, initially, anyway.  I am a visual person, and covers are the parts of the books that I can see.  Books with pretty/interesting covers draw my attention; books with terrible/boring covers repel me.  Don’t ever believe that you can’t judge a book by its cover.  Publishers know that covers sell books.  When they want a book to do well, they give it a great cover.  That’s not to say they intentionally sabotage books by giving them horrible covers, but actually I think they kind of do.  I like buying books that will look nice on my shelves.  Call me shallow, but I don’t want to spend my life looking at ugly books.
  4. I blame the dark circles under my eyes on my kids, but it’s really from staying up until four in the morning reading.  I’m not sure what else there is to say about this.  If I was  a “plugged in” parent, I would park myself on the couch with my Kindle while my kids are playing and read while they imagine.  But I don’t want their first memories of me to be me distracted by my phone and missing the important stuff.  I’m gone during the day at work – surrounded by books all day at the library – so I do my best to stay off my devices until they’re in bed.  So, night time is my reading time.  This means that sometimes I do not sleep.  At all.  (Ok, reading time cuts into sleeping time a lot.)  And I’m ok with that.
  5. I don’t use book marks – I dog-ear my pages like a savage.  And I don’t care who knows.  I don’t have time to worry about trying to remember where I put my book mark.  Not only that, I use my books.  I read them, they bang around in my bag, they ride with me in my cars.  Not often do they remain in pristine condition.  They are well-loved. Plus, I like dogs.
  6. I hate 1st person present POV.  When I pick up a book and see it’s written in that tense, 9 out of 10 times I put it back down, no matter how pretty the cover is.  There are few authors who can pull off this combination of tense and POV well, and I mostly find it to be pretentious and a cry for attention.  The character’s voice has to be one I really, really like, because it means I’m stuck for x-number of pages in this character’s limited, immediate point of view.  There aren’t a lot of characters I like that much.
  7. I dislike book snobs.  You know the type.  “Well, I only read literary fiction“, or “I only read nonfiction.”  OR… “Oh, I don’t read YA books – they’re for kids.”  Ugh.  A good book is a good book is a good book.  It doesn’t matter who wrote it, what genre it falls into, or who its intended audience was.  I feel a little bit sorry for people who are so narrow-minded that they won’t read outside their preferred taste.  Think of all the things they’re missing!  And what makes it worse is when that same person looks down on others for what they read.  Different people read different books – that’s a fact.  My books aren’t any less legit than your books.  And my books just might teach you something.  Now, that’s not to say I think people who always read the same types of books are wrong; people read what they like, and that’s completely fine.  But what’s not completely fine is when people judge others for what they read, or don’t read.
  8. I am a book hoarder.  I believe the correct term for my “condition” is bibliophile.  I have books everywhere.  Towers, piles, shelves, baskets, crates – you name it, it houses/holds/displays books.  Books bring me comfort, they give me peace.  I enjoy reading them, I enjoy looking at them, I enjoy shopping for them, I enjoy adding them to my towers/piles/shelves/baskets/crates.  (*whispers while looking over her shoulder, “Some books I even own multiple copies of.“)  And some day, if I go missing and can’t be found, it’ll be because one of my book towers collapsed and buried me beneath it.  I may suffocate, but I’d consider it a good death.
  9. Sometimes I write in my books.  Yes, it’s true.  I spent enough time as a student that I’m ok with this.  I have thoughts while I read, and there are times I want to refer back to those thoughts.  I don’t want to have to expend the brain power to try to remember which of my 1,236,735 notebooks I wrote said thought in.  No, I want it right there for ready reference.  When I buy used books, the first thing I do is look for notes made by previous owners.  I ❤ reading the thought others have had about books, as well.  (See: “Marginalia” by Billy Collins – a magnificent poem about just this subject, courtesy of Poemhunter.com.)
  10. Most of the time, I prefer books to people.  This is probably why I always have either a book or my Kindle with me at all times – so if there are too many humans around, and it looks like I might be drawn into a conversation, I can hide my face.   That is not to say I dislike people in general – I just dislike drama in all its negative forms, and with people comes drama.  So when the dude in front of me at the bank starts to get belligerent because he doesn’t understnad why he can’t go back into the vault to look at his money, and looks at me for support, he’ll find me oblivious.  “Nothing to see here – busy in Narnia.  Thank you, move along.”

Yes, it’s all true, Dear Blog Follower.  I am a beastly reader.  And unapologetic about it.  You know why?  Because I know you have reading confessions of your own.

Let me know what some of them are!