Saturday, April 30, 2011

Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion - Mmm, Brains...And Love

Pros: Unique ideas, solid voice, I loved R
Cons: Nothing

The Bottom Line: Isaac Marion goes back to the supernatural aspect of zombies and takes it to a new and unique level. Bravo!

I don't know what it was that started the whole zombie renewal. It's hard not to notice when you work at a bookstore. Maybe that's just the natural progression of the supernatural world. Vampires. Werewolves. Fairies. Then zombies. I'd read books before that featured a zombie here and there, but I'd never read a zombie book. You know, all zombie, all the time. When I saw this advance reading copy in the breakroom, I chuckled and opened it up the first page. I kept reading. Then I hoped no one else intended to take it home and read it because by then I wanted to.

R doesn't remember his name. It's hard to remember things when you're a zombie. You groan, you stagger, and you occasionally eat people. Brains are the best part because when you eat a brain, you get a glimpse at what it was like to be alive again. But when R eats the brain of Perry Kelvin, something much stronger happens. So strong, he does something no other zombie does; he protects something precious to Perry - a living girl. Julie. From then on, they form a bizarre friendship that may, somehow, change everything everyone thinks they know about zombies.

I remember the days when zombie appearances were supernatural. Gradually, thanks to other books, video games, and a plethora of movies, zombies were the result of some virus gone wrong (or in some cases, right I guess). Ever since then, I've been in the grip of zombie condition = virus infection. Author Isaac Marion works to bring back that original supernatural power - a condition that we can't explain. In R's world, people don't remember what exactly made the zombies, and by the end, it's something else entirely anyway. I liked that. A lot. Zombies by virus are boring, but Marion creeps around and plucks out various ideas on how zombies might work, and whether or not the Dead can come back.

Because this is an ARC book, which means it's an uncorrected proof and therefore potentially unfinished, these might not be in the final copy, but I hope they are because I thought they added a really nice touch - images from Gray's Anatomy. No, not the stupid TV series. The book. Instead of zombie pictures, you get what we actually look like under the skin. The bone and muscle. It's zombie-like, yet not. Hard to explain why I liked it so was just cool. It worked.

The relationship between R and Julie is interesting indeed, and one might thing initially Julie would be more freaked out than she is, but when you consider the world she's grown up in and what she's had to deal with, it worked for her. I liked R's voice and it was hard to put down this book. There are things that aren't explained, but they're the sort of things I'm okay about not knowing. I can see some people finishing this book and maybe giving it weird looks, but I'm glad this was my first zombie book. I had a good time.

Normally with ARCs, once I read them, I give them away or take them back to work. However, in this case, I can't bring myself to do either of those. I enjoyed this book and I want to keep it around. When it comes out in paperback, however, I intend to buy my own copy in order to support the author as well as own a copy that doesn't have "ARC" written all over it in permanent marker.


Originally posted on

Notes from the playlist: "Skinny Love" by Birdy

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

April Book Giveaway Winner!

Well, I'm a little late in posting this, so if you were here ealier, sorry!

But I've chosen a winner via Random Number Generator and the winner is...

Teiira! Congrats, you get yourself a copy of Wither!

Thanks to everyone who entered! Keep on visiting for book ideas and of course, free books!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

April Book Giveaway!

It's that time again! I've got a sweet little selection of books for you this time around. But I've also upped the entry fee.

This time, in order to be eligible to win a book, Tweet, Like, or otherwise link to this blog. That's it! Then leave a comment anywhere on this blog with a link to your tweet or blog or whathaveyou so I can take a peek for myself. Don't forget to include your email address in your comment so I can contact you in case you win.

I have seven books to choose from this time, but I'm only giving away one!

Click HERE for further rules and details about my book giveaways.

Here are the books available for the giveaway. They vary wide in audience and genre. They are in paperback format, except for Praying For Strangers, which is hardcover. Click the covers for more information about the book.

Think about which book you want and throw a link my way. The contest will end Monday, April 25th at 12:00am (central time). The winner will chosen via random number generator and be notified via email on the 26th. I will also leave a post announcing the winner that day as well.

Good luck!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Chocolate Wars by Deborah Cadbury - Inspiring, Sad, and Delicious

Pros: Fascinating read for history buffs, business leaders, and chocolate lovers
Cons: None

The Bottom Line: Even though it's a book placed in the business section, it's an excellent read for people who love chocolate, history, or those looking to make their business better.

This is one of those books that you see once and are curious about forever after. After that first glance, it randomly pops up and reminds you that it's there, and that maybe you should read it. But despite my ridiculous love for chocolate (and it is ridiculous), I couldn't get past the business part. I don't think the blurb on the inside jacket did this book any justice either, looking back at it now. Finally, though, I just wanted too much to read about some of my favorite chocolateirs, Cadbury and Hershey, and pulled it off the shelf.

I'm not just being cliché when I say that this book is fascinating to read. It begins year and years ago, in the infancy of chocolate when the Kisses and Crème Eggs we know and love today were as unheard of and impossible as dark matter floating out in space. Two Cadbury brothers struggle to save their father's failing business, which sells cocoa drinks to the people of England. You're transported to Vevey, Switzerland to watch as eventually Daniel Peter creates the first milk chocolate bar (I love you, Daniel), and Nestlé begins its rise. You'll spot familiar names such as Lindt, Tobler, and eventually the famous Milton Hershey and Forrest Mars.

You'll read how the companies discovered their own recipes for making milk chocolate, how they fared through two world wars, how they continued to grow and change as the years progressed and globalization became a driving force in the world. You'll know where Kit Kats really came from, and why Hershey produces goodies with Cadbury's name on it, and why I really, really don't like Kraft right now.

It's difficult for me to review this book because I really want to rant about how things have changed so much, and how a company 180 years old is now under the ownership of a big corporation like Kraft. I like Kraft foods, to be sure, but let's face it, everyone hates corporations and the fact that their CEOs earn millions if not billions of dollars each year when the people on the lowest rungs still make junk. Did you know the gap is now 344:1 when it comes to the pay ratio? And that was in 2007.

Indeed, a lot of this book was historically intriguing, fun to read, and knowing how awesome Milton Hershey and George Cadbury were is inspiring. I really wish the heads of businesses were like them, with goals and amazing selflessness instead of being *expletive**expletives* and seeking only to satisfy shareholders for the short term and focusing only on the bottom line. The fact that Roger Carr of Cadbury refused to pose for a picture shaking Irene Rosenfeld's (of Kraft) hand is simply awesome. My hat is off to you, sir.

It was still interesting even as I reached the end, though by then things had gotten sad. I almost wanted to cry, which seemed so odd, but what can I say? Knowing what I know now about the company, it was depressing to see it fall into such indifferent hands. I'd known that Hershey had their name on Cadbury's chocolate, so before reading this book I'd thought that at some point Hershey had bought Cadbury, which with their mutual goals would be fine. Instead I learned that Hershey bought Cadbury U.S., but not the entire company - that went to Kraft. And the way it all happened was just truly saddening. The way things work with shareholders and buying companies and so forth is a grand idea, but so many people transform it into a sad, flawed one. Do I trust that Kraft won't completely ruin the Cadbury brand? Yes. Do I trust that they'll run it the same way that George Cadbury would have and won't screw over a lot of people over time? Heck no.

But I'm getting off track. If you like history, then this one stretches from 1861 to the present (or as close as Deborah Cadbury could get before publishing this book) and takes an in-depth look at the creation of numerous businesses and the people involved. Some may believe that because a member of the Cadbury family wrote this book, it's going to be skewed - but in her introduction she states her intention is to be as objective as possible. I believe she stayed true to form. After all, with the truckload of research she did, all the proof you need for what's in this book is at the very end in the bibliography. As for business owners, I think it's a good look at what works and how a company can flourish by doing the right thing - and that doesn't mean just staring down at the bottom line. And if you love chocolate, then it's a great way to learn about your beloved food and the people responsible for its creation and growth.

I love chocolate. I've seen images of people cutting down the pods from the cacao trees and letting the beans dry out in the hot sun. I've always hoped that everyone involved with the making of such a great thing has a good time in the process (not always true, but I really want it to be and think it should be). Now I know the history behind so many of the chocolates I enjoy - how Nestlé kind of sucks, how Mars was kind of a jerk, how Cadbury was so instrumental to changes for the better, and how Hershey learned from Cadbury to make what they do today. My one hope out of all of this is that Hershey never folds and falls into the hands of some bigger company at the mercy of short term return shareholders and people in it for the profits.

So read this book and learn all sorts of new things. And Hershey, if you're reading this, keep doing what you're doing, and don't let what happened to Cadbury happen to you. Then I really might cry, for that would be the loss of one of the last great things in the world.


P.S. I couldn't have picked a better time to read this book because Easter was the time that all the Cadbury and Hershey chocolates come out in force. I frequently read while eating Creme Eggs, Mini Eggs, and I even tried their Dairy Milk chocolate because I recognized the name from the book.

Notes from the playlist: "Derezzed" by Daft Punk

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Recommended for Mythical Creature Hunters

The Element Encyclopedia of Magical Creatures by John and Caitlin Matthews

Yes indeed. As a writer, I like to have good, solid reference materials right on hand. I got tired of surfing the web and sifting through all the junk to find reliable information - yes, even on mythical creatures. So I turned to the one source I knew wouldn't let me down. Books. After checking out several, I decided that this book would be the best. After all, it's subtitle is: The Ultimate A-Z of Fantastic Beings from Myth and Magic. Jackpot. I wish it had some images, but hey, I can deal without them. This book gives descriptions of the creatures, their origin, and where they're often found in literature or various fables. It's a handy volume for all sorts of things, whether you just want to see what other culture believe in or you're looking for your next magical beast for your novel.

Notes from the playlist: "The Face" by RyanDan

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Recently Finished

The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown

I recently saw Angels & Demons again (the book was better) and thought I might re-read the book. Then I remembered it was in St. Louis with my sister. Then I remembered I never got around to reading The Lost Symbol. So that's what I did. While I believe most people would agree that The Lost Symbol isn't as good as Brown's previous books featuring Robert Langdon, it's still a pretty good read. In this book, Robert has to cast disbelief aside and crack the code left by the Masons on a stone pyramid in order to save a friend. With science, God, and a madman thrown into a mix, once again it's a dangerous combination and worse, he's only got until midnight. It does keep you on your toes, but does have a frequent number of flashbacks and a few writing devices most writers would shake their heads at. It's enjoyable, however, this, ladies and gentlemen, is the reason why writers should be given plenty of time to work on their books and they should be given the same editing attention as an author's first book.

Notes from the playlist: "Powerhouse" by Raymond Scott

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Whoops! I completely forgot to mention this. Last month I reviewed Stephanie Garber's amazing book Caraval for the web blog I curre...