Sunday, January 30, 2011

"The Book Thief" by Markus Zusak

There are novels that mess with your head.  There are novels that change your life.  The Book Thief is both.

When I started reading, I wasn't sure I liked it much.  It's told from Death's point-of-view, and Death has an interesting way of expressing himself, very reminiscent of Vonnegut's Breakfast of Champions.  It's wry.  It's self-deprecating.  It's self-aware.  And by the end of the book, I was in love.

Thing is, Zusak tells you exactly what's going to happen.  He keeps distancing us from the story, reminding us that we already know the ending, that we shouldn't get too involved.  But we do anyway.  The characters are so engaging, so believably heartrending, so lovable.

This is a story of Germany during World War II, but it's not about the Holocaust.  Sure, it makes an appearance or two or five, but how could it not?  This book is about the relationships between all of these deeply flawed but magnificent humans and the figure of Death who, despite himself, gets involved in the story of their lives.

I've only cried while reading a couple of books in my life.  One was My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok.  Another good one to read, by the way.  But even that one didn't make me openly weep like this novel.

Now, please don't let that statement turn you away from the book.  It took me forever to watch Schindler's List, because I never felt like I was "up for it".  This novel will wrench your soul, true, but you will enjoy the process.  The book is... for want of another way of putting it... a fun read.

I could give you a plot summary without any fear of spoilers, since Zusak does such a good job of that himself.  But the beauty of this author's bizarre prose can't really be captured in a Cliff's notes version of the novel.  And that's not my style anyway.

What is my style is to tell you to get off your rear end RIGHT NOW and go get this book!  It's available here.  It will change you, and you will return and thank me for recommending it.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

"Incarceron" by Catherine Fisher

It's not all that often that you come across a book that has ideas that feel completely new.  This is one of those books.  This one feels like it's knocking on Dune's door for inventiveness and world-building, and I'm not sure how to give a better compliment than that.  There is almost an element of steam-punk in this futuristic, dystopic (how tired are you getting of that word, by the way?) world where they've turned back the clock to try to save humanity from itself.  In case you were wondering, that didn't work out so well.

The storyline's inventive, the pacing is good and pulls you along nicely (I missed a meal or two in the process of reading this book...pretty big deal for me) and there are enough surprises that it keeps you guessing.  It's no surprise that this little gem has been snapped up by Hollywood with the hopes of turning it into the next blockbuster.  It has all that I look for in a novel, except for one thing...

I mentioned Dune.  What Dune has that Incarceron doesn't quite is characters that leap off the page.  There were some good and memorable ones here, don't get me wrong, but at times it felt as if Fisher was trying just a bit too hard.  I loved Jared Sapiens, but when I compare him to Gurney Halleck or Thufir Hawat or Reverend Mother Helen Mohaim... or even the Baron Harkonnen, I can't help but feel like a bit more attention to the characters in this novel could've taken something already great and turned it into an instant classic.

With that said, the fact that I even put this novel in the same sentence with one of the finest novels in the science-fiction genre should tell you that it's well worth the time, energy and money to pick up and read a copy.  You can find it here.

By the way, if you haven't read Dune, you must (repeat MUST) pick up a copy.  Even if you're not a fan of science-fiction, this is one of those books that should be required reading for anyone that calls themself a serious reader.  #justsayin

Oh, and in case you haven't noticed all the amazingness happening out there, you've got to go check out the Blog Tour de Force.  Today's author is Keta Diablo and her novel is Where the Rain Is Made.  Go take a look (steaminess alert, by the way) and while you're at it, enter to win a Kindle!!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

"HeartsBlood" by Carolyn McCray (@craftycmc)

This review is particularly exciting for me.  First, I get to review an awesome novel...more on that in a moment. Second, I get to tell you about the Blog Tour de Force that it's a part of.  Finally, I get to tell you where to go to enter to win a free KINDLE, loaded with copies of twelve books!!  Talk about feeding your reading addiction (seriously, I should be put in jail or something). #sorryguys #notreally

So, back to HeartsBlood, which is the first of twelve books on the Blog Tour de Force (that you totally need to go check out, just in case you didn't get that).  This book is the BOMB!  And yes, I am aware of how uncool I sound right now.  Guess what?  Don't care.  This book is worth getting ridiculous about.  Seriously.

Okay, ostensibly this is a paranormal romance, but for the sake of my masculinity, I will hereafter refer to it as an urban fantasy.  Which it totally is, by the way, with the exception of some really steamy scenes, which could also totally be found in urban fantasy, right?  Totally.  I dunno... am I trying to hard here?  One too many totally's?  Thing is, I'm raving about this novel here, but I'm still raving about it on the inside, too.  Which is hard to do when you're a guy and you're talking about a ROMANCE for cryin' out loud.

This novel messed me up.  It took over my life.  In invaded my brain.  Ooo, I'll one up that.  It invaded my heart.  How's that for cheesy?  But this novel totally isn't.  It's thrilling, compelling, surprising.  The characters are real, the action is grab-you-by-the-seat-of-your-pants and the plot is tight as the proverbial drum.  And the world that McCray creates is so vibrant that you'll find yourself buying into the whole mythology of it... sort of like Star Wars and the Force.  So, go to McCray's blog, right NOW and leave a comment to win a free e-book. 

While you're at it, if you didn't do it earlier, go to the Blog Tour de Force page and check out all the amazing authors coming over the course of the next 12 days.  You'll thank me.  I mean it. :)

Sunday, January 9, 2011

"Pathfinder" by Orson Scott Card

Orson Scott Card, I love you.  I hate you.  I love you.

My conflicted feelings towards one of my favorite authors has NOTHING to do with this book in and of itself.  Pathfinder is one of those powerfully engaging novels where you're swept up so much that when you're finished, you feel a little empty.  Specifically here, I was left missing the characters I had met within the pages of this humdinger of a novel.  Homesick for a place that I've visited but that doesn't actually exist.

And now I'm pissed off.  Royally.

"Why?" you may well ask.  "If you loved the book so much, why are you upset?"

Because this is the first novel in a series.  A series, I might add, that Mr. Card has just begun.  Which means the second novel is not written yet.  Which means that time will elapse before it's published.  Which means that I have to WAIT.  Damn you, OSC.

You see, I have a long reading history with Mr. Card, with whom (coincidentally enough) I had a brief professional history, when he wrote the script for a musical I performed in, many years ago.  That experience was amazing.  Reading his novels is amazing.  Waiting for the next book in one of his series to come out is... excruciating.  Seriously, Mr. Card, do you not care about your obsessive readers, anxiously checking for news while slowly chewing their fingernails down to bloody non-existence?  Your lack of compassion is staggering.

The upstart of all of this is, of course, that you should go out and buy the bleepety-bleep book immediately.  You will love it.  You will love me for suggesting it.  And then, like me, you will writhe, caught on the tightrope line between love and hate for Orson Scott Card.

OSC, I love you, man.  Mean it.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Your Need to Read...the Beginning

You're a book junkie.  Admit it.  You sneak into dark corners to read just another few pages before you get caught.

There's nothing quite like the feel of cracking open that new book for the first time.  The smell of the paper, the rustling of the pages, the excitement of the opening lines.

You're hooked.

It's okay.  We are too.  And not only do we recognize you as a fellow reading addict, we will support you in your addiction (how very dysfunctional of us).

Each week, we'll be talking about our love of reading.  We may review a book we've just read, either traditionally or self published, either hard copy or e-version.  We'll talk about books from all kinds of genres.  Or we might just talk about how much fun reading is.

Whatever we do, you can rest assured that if you love reading, we'll be providing you with lots of fuel to fan the flames of your passion.

Oh, and if you're an author and want to be reviewed, give us a buzz.  We'll ask for a free copy to review, and we won't post it if it isn't at least a three-star review (hey... we don't want to waste our reader's time, and honestly it wouldn't do you that much good anyway).  So, if you're cool with that, just email us at thrillersrockt (at) aol (dot) com.

And join us on this ride.  It's sure to be a lot of fun...