Gabriel’s Inferno/Gabriel’s Rapture – Book Review

I love Pinterest.  It’s so awesome.  Filled with all the recipes that I’ll never have the time to make, the decorating that I’ll never have the money to do, the crafts that I’ll never be creative enough to make.  I pin and repin, hoping against all odds that I’ll someday accomplish all these wonderful things.

One thing that I love about Pinterest is browsing through the humour pins.  I often find myself chuckling out loud as I scroll through.  There are a lot of the someecards – which are hilarious.

So I’m browsing through the laughter section of Pinterest, when I come across this pin:

Um…..who?

Okay…I thought to myself, I know who Gideon Cross is (more on him later) and I definitely know who Christian Grey is.  I mean come on, doesn’t everybody?  So who the heck is this Gabriel Emerson, and why the heck would I cheat on Christian Grey with him?

Four words: Thank goodness for Google. Within a few seconds, I was able to find out that Gabriel Emerson is a fictional character in a two book (so far) series, including Gabriel’s Inferno and Gabriel’s Rapture by Sylvain Reynard.  Well, if this guy was dreamy enough to compete with, or mentioned in the same context as Gideon Cross (oh mercy – more on him later) or Christian Grey – well where do I click to download these books?

I was quickly pulled in by these books.  I have to admit, the first 1/3 of Gabriel’s inferno had me questioning things and maybe a little confused.  Once it got going though, and some questions were answered and things explained, I started to enjoy the books.  I thought it was kind of cool that the primary location for the book was at the University of Toronto.  I always like reading books that mention streets and buildings that I am familiar with.

The book follows the story of Professor Gabriel Emerson.  He is a Dante Specialist at the U of T.  This also made it interesting to me as I read The Divine Comedy in high school and it remains one of my favourite works to this day.  All the Dante, Beatrice and Virgil references were quite interesting to me.

Back to Prof. Emerson.  So upon first meeting him, we get the idea that he is pretty much an ass.  A gorgeous ass, but definitely an ass.  We are also introduced pretty much right away to Julia Mitchell, a MA student, studying Dante and writing her thesis.  She seems shy, compassionate, and quite nervous around Professor Emerson.  The story unfolds, though a bit slowly at first, to reveal a past and current connection between Gabriel and Julia.

These books are somewhat similar to the 50 Shades and Crossfire series, in that they are very steamy.  The sexual tension in these books is palpable.  However, there aren’t 50 million love scenes in these books like there were in the other ones.  Actually, most of both of these books are about the building of a relationship without all the sex.  They certainly don’t jump into bed with each other the way they do in the other series.  It’s not so much about the sex act as the buildup to the sex act.

Of course there is also the typical plot line where the gorgeous god of a man who seems like such a jerk is actually dealing with a whole bunch of crap from a really horrible past, and the woman in the story is usually a saviour of sorts, saving them from their past, from their current state of miserableness, and from themselves.  This seems to be a fairly prominent theme in romance novels in general, but especially the blockbusters of late.  The man is usually in a position of power, wealth and huge control over everything around them.  The woman comes along and shatters them, showing their true vulnerability and opening them up to a whole new world.  One they never thought they wanted, or perhaps deserved.

One thing that I found very interesting was that Sylvain Renard is actually male.  I did not think these books read like they were written by a male.  Often when sex scenes and relationship stories are written by a male, the sex, and a man’s anatomy tend to be prominent in the writing.  This was not the case here.  Not to say that male or female writers are any better suited for one genre than another, but finding out that these were written by a male surprised me.

Overall, there are a lot of twists and turns, a lot of ups and downs.  I wasn’t totally blown away, but I did like these books.  They announced just recently that there are plans for a third book.  I’m definitely interested enough to read on to see what is next in store for these two characters.

 

 

Advertisements

The Perks of Being a Wallflower – Book and Movie Review

When I first picked up The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, I had heard that it was very good.  I didn’t expect that it would be in the format that it is – a series of letters written by the main character Charlie, to an unknown entity simply referred to as “Friend.”

Charlie is a teenage boy, and where we pick up on his life, he is just getting ready to start high school.  He really isn’t looking forward to it.  He at that point is trying to come to terms with the suicide of his best friend Michael, who shot himself without leaving a note a few months earlier, as well as the death of his Aunt Helen, who was his favourite person in the world.

It’s hard to describe Charlie exactly.  In reading these letters, there is a innocence about him, and to be honest, there are times when I wondered if he was a bit developmentally challenged.

We follow Charlie as he finds his way through his first year of high school, where a short way in he is discovered and befriended by a very interesting duo – half brother and sister Patrick and Sam.  A couple of seniors who seem to see something in Charlie and take him under their wing.  Charlie is introduced to many new things and new people.  He is accepted right away by their friends, and though it is pretty obvious from early on that he is smitten by Sam, he dates one of the other friends, Mary Elizabeth for a time during the story.  He is introduced to things such as drugs and parties – as well as the complex relationships between people and the fact that as much as you seem to think you know someone, that they are never all that they seem.

Charlie also becomes very close to his English teacher Bill, who also seems to see things and potential in him.  He gives Charlie several extra books to read throughout the year, and has him write reports on each one.  He is a positive figure in Charlie’s life, and he encourages him to his full potential.

This is a book about the coming of age of a teenage boy, discovering love, coming to terms with events of the past, and hope in moving forward.  It is funny at times, usually in the brutally honest way and unfiltered way that Charlie looks at everything, especially his own family and friends.  It is heartbreaking, as we find out the events that turned him into the person that he is, and it is heartwarming to read about the relationships that he develops in the book.  It is thought of by some as a modern day Catcher in the Rye.

So our book club read this book and then decided that we would go see the movie, which we did just a few nights ago.  It stars Emma Watson, Logan Lerman and Ezra Miller in the principal roles.  I wasn’t sure what to expect, or how they would translate the format of the book, being the letters – into a movie.

I was not disappointed.  This was really a very good movie.  Perhaps the fact that Stephen Chobosky wrote the screenplay helps, though that is not always the case as in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, where Seth Grahame-Smith managed to completely screw up his own book while turning it into a movie.

This was a very good interpretation of the novel.  There were minor differences, mostly for the sake of continuity, a few things left out, mostly I believe for the same reason.  What they were able to do in the movie that was hard to do in the book was clearly define Charlie.  Because of the way the book was written, I said above that there were times when I actually thought that Charlie was mentally underdeveloped.  The movie does not depict him this way.  Though he has struggles socially, mostly due to events and things that have happened to him in his life, he really is mostly just a sweet, generous, vulnerable young boy with some issues.  Major issues.  The movie, being a visual tool, clearly depicts him in the situations in a way that the book does not.  It actually made me want to go back and read the book again, just to see it through eyes that have seen it on the big screen.

Overall, I was very impressed, both with the book and the movie.  If you haven’t read the book, read it.  Then go see the movie.  I don’t think you’ll be sorry.

Steve Jobs – Book Review – and a Little More

This man was a genius. He was also an asshole. Eccentric to the max.

Never have I felt so compelled to really not like someone, yet have an unprecedented amount of respect for them.

You know if you read this post that I am a tech geek. I love all things tech and have been having a love affair with Apple for years now.  I have had several iPods, am working on my second iPhone, and am a huge fan of the iPad.  For the time being, it has taken the place of a personal computer in my house.  I have Mac envy, and especially with the release of the latest generation Macbook Pro, I am saving my pennies more than ever.  I NEED one of these machines.

I love Apple, their products, their philosophies, and have sat captivated watching many keynotes from product launches, WWDCs, etc. watching them work their magic.  I like Tim Cook, and all the folks at Apple, for their passion and dedication to their products, but watching Steve Jobs take the stage at so many of these events, and watching his charisma take over the entire room, led me to develop a huge respect for him and a real desire to learn more about his story.

On October 5th 2011, we were at a party at a friends house, and I had the rare opportunity to chat with a few folks about techie things.  This was amazing.  We talked quite a bit about about Apple, their  products, and the announcement about the iPhone 4S the previous day.  We discussed Steve Jobs, his resignation from the position of CEO due to health reasons, and the impact he had made on the company.  When Joe and I got in the car to go home, I pulled out my phone to check Twitter, and was devastated to see that my stream was clogged with the news that Jobs had died.  I found it so ironic and yet fitting that we should be sitting and having a conversation about Apple and its products at the very time that his death was being announced to the world.  Many people will always remember where they were when Kennedy was shot, when Elvis died, when Princess Diana died.  I add to my list Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, and Steve Jobs.

Naturally, when it was announced that his biography would be published, it went to the top of my to-read list.  I don’t usually go out and buy hardcover, so I was delighted to find it under the Christmas tree last year.  I was very excited to read it, but it is 571 pages, plus notes, acknowledgments and index, so I wanted to read it at a time where I would be able to dedicate large chunks of time to reading it.  What better time then when I have a weeks vacation??  So it sat unopened until last week when I hardly had any time to read.  I was determined to finish it though and spent quite a bit of time reading over the long weekend to finish it.

What an amazing read.  Walter Issacson, a known biographer, shows a no-holds-barred account of Jobs’ life.  There is no sugar coating here, and from what the book says, Jobs and his family wanted it that way.  Jobs encouraged him to interview people, and encouraged those people to be open and honest with him.  That I think is why this book was so good.  It was honest.

All geniuses are eccentric.  All you have to do is look back through history to see that the most brilliant minds are all a little “off” to a certain extent.  Steve Jobs was no different.  He was an LSD dropping hippie type dropout that didn’t shower much, had bizarre eating habits, tended to cry a lot, and had quite a knack for ignoring things that he didn’t want to deal with.  He basically abandoned his eldest daughter, denying responsibility for her for years.  He would walk up to something that someone had been working on for weeks, months, etc., and declare it “a piece of shit.”  He worked his people to the point of exhaustion to get a product launched within a time frame that he thought was acceptable, and was definitely not above losing it on a regular basis – sometimes for no apparent reason.

What he also possessed though, was an uncanny knack for knowing what worked.  He took one look at what Steve Wozniak was developing and knew that it was the start of something great.  A true minimalist, he appreciated beauty and simplicity in devices.  As most people who know about Apple know, he believed in a “closed” system, where the software and hardware are tightly linked.  In other words, Apple does not license it’s software to other companies like others (Microsoft, for example) do.  So if you want Apple’s software, you’re buying an Apple machine.  You’ll never see Apple’s software running on “some other company’s crappy machine.”  Personally, I prefer this, and believe that Apple makes beautiful devices.  Open platforms are advancing and many say that the gap between Apple and Android has been officially closed with the release of Android’s latest – Jellybean.  I’ve never had the opportunity to play with a device running Jellybean, so I can’t weigh in honestly.  Jobs though, had the idea that in order for the user to fully enjoy each device to its full capacity, Apple must have full control over the experience, from the software to the hardware, to the apps, etc.

It was so interesting to read about Jobs.  How his erratic behaviour and disagreements with various individuals got him ousted from Apple, and his journey back, his experiences with Pixar and Disney, and how he took a company that was basically 90 days from insolvency to being the most valuable company on the planet.  It is an amazing story, and from someone who owns these devices, such a wonderful opportunity to see the thought processes and the development that went into them.  It’s unbelievable to me that they were getting ready to launch the iPhone when they suddenly decided that it wasn’t right, and scrapped the whole design to start over.  Or that the iPad was actually already in the works before they launched the iPhone.

If you’re even remotely interested in tech and the life of Steve Jobs, I highly recommend this book.  It is a truly honest look at the man, the father, the husband, the friend.  It’s also a huge insight into the company that was the true love of his life – Apple.

I first saw the video below after Jobs had passed away.  It is from 2005, and it is a commencement address that Jobs gave for Stanford University.  The story behind how this speech got written is very cool and outlined in this book.  It is truly one of the most inspiring speeches I have ever heard and if you’ve never watched it before, I urge you to take the time to do so.

One of the most brilliant things Steve Jobs ever said was that he never did any market research. “The consumer doesn’t know what they want until we show it to them.  Henry Ford once said – ‘If I had asked the people what they wanted, they would have told me they wanted faster horses.’ ”  True innovation – that’s what he was all about.

Left Neglected – Book Review

I just finished reading Left Neglected by Lisa Genova. I was a very big fan of Still Alice, and when I won this book in a Twitter contest from Chapters, I was very excited. Free anything is awesome. Free books? Well, that's bloody amazing! 🙂

I loved this book. Lisa Genova has a PhD in Neuroscience from Harvard. She's no dummy. Though she writes fiction, the topics are ones that she knows a lot about. Still Alice was about a woman who suffered from severe early onset Alzheimer's. Left Neglected is about Sarah Nickerson, a woman who suffers from a true neurological disorder called Left Neglect. But more on that in a bit.

Sarah is a thirty-something woman with a lot going on in her life. She is married to Bob, the mother of Charlie, Lucy and Linus (yes, her children are named after Peanuts characters) and works as the vice president of Human Resources in a huge company. She works in the neighbourhood of 80 hours a week, juggles work, family, social, etc. with amazing order and precision. Her husband Bob is also a very motivated individual, devoting many hours at work. Their lives are very hectic and in many ways they are the perfect match for each other.

There is tons of stuff going on, including parent-teacher interviews with their sons teacher about his behaviour, meetings at work, trying to make it to one soccer game out of the season, who is going to win the “rocks-paper-scissors” game that they play each Friday to see who is going to drive the kids to school and daycare.

One morning, on her way to work, trying to make a phone call, she takes her eyes off the road for a split second, resulting in a life changing car accident. When she wakes up in the hospital, it becomes apparent very quickly that there is something extra unusual going on. She has had severe trauma to her brain, and required surgery. It is discovered that she is suffering from Hemispatial Neglect on the right side of her brain, which causes her to completely lose the left side of everything, even herself. Her brain is unable to register the left side of absolutely everything.

Of course this drives her crazy, and she automatically assumes that she will be healing up and back to work in two weeks, with therapy and whatnot. She can't stand that she's away from work, away from her kids, away from her life. Sarah soon realizes that the simplest tasks – dressing, eating and going to the washroom become nearly impossible without help. Healing is not going to be a cake-walk, and that she may never completely heal, and never get her life back as she knew it.

Combine all this with the sudden apperance of her mostly absent mother, who has all of a sudden shown up with the intent to help her through her recovery, and Sarah is embarking on the journey of a lifetime. Though where she ends up is definitely nowhere near where she thought she would.

One of the main reasons I liked this book was that it concentrated on Sarah. It was from her point of view, just as Still Alice was from Alice's point of view. There are so many accounts from the family members of people with neurological disorders, but not nearly as many from the actual patients. It is different, and it is very interesting and breathes life into these conditions. Makes them more real.

I liked that in Left Neglected, the focus was Sarah, and her condition. Her husband was awesome, and for the most part stayed awesome. It wasn't like her whole life fell apart when this happened to her, but it was almost a blessing in disguise, for so many reasons.

I totally recommend this book, and her other book Still Alice. Both are extremely well written, compassionate and real.

5/5 stars.

 

Thirteen – Book Review

I am a huge fan of Kelley Armstrong. I’ve reviewed a few of her books here, and have never been disappointed with anything she’s done.  I’ve read her YA books, but by far, my favourite of her books are her Women of the Otherworld series.  This series started with a story about a female werewolf, Elena Michaels – in Bitten.  This series has it ALL.  Basically all supernatural types are featured throughout this series – werewolves, witches, sorcerers, vampires, demons, half demons, necromancers, zombies, ghosts, angels…you name it.

Thirteen is the latest and final installment of the Otherworld series. I was disappointed to hear that it was going to be ending, but I suppose it had to happen sooner or later.

The thing I liked most about this whole series is that it centered around strong, powerful, independent women.  The other cool thing about it is the men they choose.  Pretty much without exception, they choose equally strong men, who support them and work along side them, as opposed to trying to hold them back and oppress them.

The thing that I liked most about Thirteen in particular, is that we get a full ensemble cast.  All the favourites from the past installments were there.  I was thrilled to see Elena and Clayton, Jamie and Jeremy, Paige and Lucas, Eve and Kristoff, Hope and Karl, and of course, Savannah and Adam.

The supernatural world is at war.  Those who want to out the supernaturals, let everyone know about them, that think they will be free from hiding, that their offspring will have a better life if they are out in the open.  This of course is ridiculous for several reasons.  The interracial council and the cabals find themselves with a common goal, which doesn’t happen very often.  We even get a little insight into Lucifer, and you may be surprised as to how he is depicted.

This book, as the previous two before it, was told from the point of view of Savannah.  I think Kelley Armstrong always planned to have a trilogy within a series type of thing with Savannah in the centre as the final part of this series.  There is a chapter from Elena, as well as one from Paige, which is also very cool.

Any fans of the series I think will not be disappointed with this book.  It ties everything up nicely, and fulfills any need to know how characters are doing, and where they will end up.  I’m sad the series is over, but excited to see what Armstrong will come up with next.

Uglies – Book Review

Once again in Chapters, once again with my friend Karen, browsing the stacks, in the YA section, and she points to a book, saying “have you read this?  It’s pretty good.”  This time, she was referring to Uglies by Scott Westerfeld.

I hadn’t read it, so I picked it up.  Of course.

This is the first in a series, followed up by Pretties, Specials and Extras.

This is another story of dystopian fiction.  Our story is about Tally.  She exists in a world where you are either Ugly or Pretty.  You are born cute and remain so until you are 12.  Then you are considered Ugly, and are shipped off to live with the other Uglies until you are 16, where you will undergo an operation to become “Pretty.”  Basically taking away all your features and starting from scratch, making your face perfectly symmetrical, your skin flawless, your hair perfect, etc.  Pretties have no job but to have fun, and party and be happy.  Sounds amazing to an ugly like Tally, whose best friend Peris just became Pretty a few months prior.  She can’t wait until she turns 16 and it will finally be her turn for the operation.

The idea behind these operations are to bring peace to society.  They are based on the idea that if everyone is beautiful, and equal, there will be no wars, no disagreements between anyone, because no one will have anything to fight about.  Flawed logic, obviously, and there is usually a sinister element in these dystopian societies, as people are usually brainwashed into believing that everything is perfect.  The freedom of choice is usually non existent.

On her own as an ugly in the weeks prior to her 16th Birthday, Tally meets and becomes friends with another Ugly, Shay.  They become very close and Tally eventually realizes that Shay feels like there is something wrong with the operation, and society on a whole (Duh!) and she doesn’t want to become Pretty.

Eventually, Tally is given a choice.  And with her own future as a Pretty in the balance, she needs to choose whether to betray her friend and become Pretty, as she has always wanted and has been waiting for her whole life, or rebel and live a much different life than she had imagined.

I liked this book.  It wasn’t literary genius, but the concept is pretty cool, and most of the characters are fairly likable.  Dystopian fiction is really catching on, especially in Young Adult Fiction, and this is unlike a lot of the others.  Tally is a good heroine, spunky and strong, capable and resilient, though for the most part, she is quite taken with the idea of becoming a Pretty and is willing to do whatever it takes to be one.  She is overall a good, caring person, and I like her as the main character.

I’m getting ready to start Pretties, and am looking forward to reading the rest of the series.

 

Care of Wooden Floors – Book Review

So my book club last month read Care of Wooden Floors by Will Wiles. It got picked randomly just by looking around Chapters and pulling random titles, then voting.
Overall, the reviews were very mixed. The general idea of the story is this: the main character, whose name we never do find out, is asked to apartment sit by his friend Oscar. He is a writer of commercial jingles, struggling to be something more. Oscar is a relatively famous composer of classical music. The two met in college.
We never actually meet Oscar face to face except in memories, but his presence is very strongly there throughout the whole book. This is actually a book about Oscar. Oscar's flat, Oscar's stuff, Oscar's marriage, Oscar's friends, Oscar's life. We learn that “control freak” and “perfectionist” are not quite strong enough terms to describe Oscar. When we arrive at his apartment, there are annoying little notes in the most annoying places. “Do not play with the piano!” On the piano keys. Notes everywhere, stating how things are to be done, how to look after the cats, and most importantly, to take meticulous care of the pristine wooden floors in the flat.
What starts out as a simple apartment sitting situation, quickly turns to disaster. One mishap after another, where our lead blames everyone but himself, leads to quite a messy situation.
This is actually a lot like watching a car crash in slow motion. There is an ominous feeling throughout the whole thing. A feeling like – this can't end well. Innocent actions turn disastrous, and you can't help feeling throughout like this guy really is his own worst enemy.
As for my own feelings about this book, well, I didn't really have many. I mean, it was okay, but I like to have emotions from reading a book. I didn't have any here. I didn't root for anyone, I didn't particularly like anyone in the book. When I was finished, I found myself asking really what the point of the story was.
There have been many positive reviews of this book online, and I'm sure that many that appreciate this writing style will enjoy it.
I feel duped. The mention of porn on the back made me vote for it. It was just okay.