Men of the Otherworld – Book Review

Last night I finished reading “Men of the Otherworld” by Kelley Armstrong.  I want to preface this by saying that I have already read books 1-10 of the “Women of the Otherworld” series.  I love all these books and how they depict the women in them as strong, intelligent, and resourceful.

The men obviously play an important role in the other books, but only as how they are related to the women.  We hear little bits of their stories, of their pasts, but none of the true meat of it, and always as told by the women in the story….with the exception of Lucas, who has that sexy geek thing down to a science and whose story is also quite interesting and I’d love to hear more about him – hopefully in further books.

This story begins with Jeremy – the current Alpha of the American werewolves.  You don’t know much about his story from the other books.  This gives you an insight as to what the pack was like under a different Alpha, and of how completely different Jeremy is from his father – Malcolm.  We learn the circumstances surrounding Jeremy’s conception, and see his mother for the first time.

The bulk of this story is about Clayton, and the tale of his “childhood,” though really only from the bite onwards.  It’s as though his pre-bitten life didn’t exist.  This is an interesting story, especially told from Clay’s point of view.  He has an interesting mind and way of looking at things.  And apparently, complete obliviousness as to how completely gorgeous he is.  You get an insight of the true relationship between Clayton and Jeremy, and realize that considering Clayton’s state of mind when he was discovered by the Pack, there truly would never be anyone as suited as Jeremy to remove Clay from his wilderness home, civilize and raise him.

The book covers Jeremy’s rise to power as Alpha and cuts off pretty much right before he meets Elena.  It then jumps ahead to present day.

The POV switches and Jeremy is the voice now.  I won’t say much, only that I hope that the last tale in the book, with Jeremy and Jamie is a precursor to a future tale, where Jeremy can hopefully find out more about the other side of his parentage, his mother.

Overall, an excellent read, especially for those Women of the Underworld fans who agree with me that the werewolf tales concerning Elena and Clay et al are the best and most exciting in the series.

As these stories go – 5/5 stars.

 

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Water for Elephants – Book Review

So this weekend I finished reading Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. This book has been sitting on my shelf for a long time – among all the others that I bought probably because of a recommendation, and with the best of intentions.  I have heard from a few of my friends that have read it recently, and all have had nothing but good things to say about it.  Finally, after reading the selection my book club had chosen for the month, I wasn’t sure what I was going to read next.  So I picked this up, determined to give it a try.

I don’t know what kept me from reading it in the past.  Maybe it was the name, I just didn’t think that this was going to be something that would interest me.

Boy, was I wrong.

From the first few paragraphs, I was hooked, and I didn’t even know why.  I think the style of writing and the easy, likeable voice of the narrator, Jacob, drew me in.  From then on, I picked it up every chance I got, and finished it within a few days.

The bulk of this story takes place around the early part of the Great Depression, though it is told through the memories of Jacob, a ninety (or ninety-three) year old man who is living out the remainder of his life in a nursing home.  He is a widower, with several children and grandchildren that come to see him to fufill their obligation, though they all have busy lives.  He bounces back and forth between anger, sadness and confusion, all the while telling this story of the few months that he spent in the summer of 1931 travelling with a circus.

He was a student at Cornell, training to be a veternarian like his father, when a huge turn of events changes his life forever.  Basically to escape the pain of reality, he ends up jumping a train in the night (he has no idea while he’s jumping that it’s a circus train) and leaves everything behind.

Through meeting new friends, he is awarded a place with the show, and once his area of study is discovered, he is “hired” on as the vet.  I put “hired” in quotations because I don’t believe that he is ever actually paid for any of his services.  The story goes on to tell how Jacob falls in love with one of the performers, Marlena, who is married to the Equestrian Director, who just happens to be a complete psycho.  It paints a good picture of these desperate times, where men and women would subject themselves to this horrible lifestyle that was not guaranteed – at any minute one could be “red-lighted” – basically thrown off the train, for a number of different reasons – just because there was nowhere else to go, nothing else to do.  They figured they were better off there than starving to death at home. If there was even a home to go back to.

Jacob becomes close with all the animals, particularly Rosie, an elephant that was aquired by the circus upon the crumble of another circus.  Rosie was said to be as dumb as a stump, but Jacob connects with her, and the description of her huge amber eyes and smile truly gives her a personality and she quickly becomes a central character to the story.

Due to the first few pages of the book, you can see where the story is going, though there is a bit of a twist thrown in at the end that I for one didn’t see coming.  I was captivated by the telling of Jacob’s story, as well as the parts where his is in present day, struggling to come to terms with aging.  Perhaps it’s because my husband works with the elderly on a daily basis, this part of the story really interested me.

Anyway – Overall – Loved this book!  Gave it 5/5 stars and would highly recommend to anyone.

If you have any comments – Read this, plan on reading it? Loved it, hated it?  Please comment or e-mail me at culinarygoddessblog at gmail dot com.  I’d love to hear from you and discuss this piece of fiction!

 

Harry Potter vs. Twilight

Spoiler Alert! If for some crazy reason you have not read the books or seen the movies, you might not want to read any further.  Now get out from under your rock and go read them!

So, I have heard so many people making comparisons and drawing parallels between the Harry Potter series and the Twilight series. Having read both series (a few times each) and enjoying both of them immensely, I felt the burning need to compare the two and draw my own parallels and highlight the differences. These compairisons relate to the books only.

First the parallels. Both are series. Both have magical beings and involve keeping the truth about their existence from “normal people” (ie. Humans, muggles)
That’s it. That’s all.

As far as I’m concerned, that’s where the similarities end.

First of all, though I adored Twilight and would recommend it to anyone and will probably read the series through again sometime (or six), overall, I have to say that the Harry Potter series was completely and totally better written than Twilight. Potter was also much better thought out. All you have to do is read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows to realize that fact. There was so much throughout the first six books that set the stage for the last book. Rowling took her time. She laid out all seven books and they all connect to each other and they flow so well.

Meyer is a great writer as well, she caused me at the age of 33 to have a slight…okay huge crush on a 17 year old vampire. But I found that the story just sort of flowed through the four books, from beginning to end. There was no looking back while reading Breaking Dawn and realizing that there was a passage in any of the previous books that foreshadowed any event that took place.

I always feel that if a book evokes emotion, it has done its job. Most people on a whole are somewhat visual, therefore crying at the end of a movie is a common thing – especially for me – because we have had the whole story laid at our feet. It didn’t really take any straining to see the story because it was right there. Characters are developed, we see what they look like, how they talk, how they dress, carry themselves, etc. In a book, you must do some of the work yourself. Everything is there for you – if it’s written right – to develop the characters in your mind, and make them your own. If a book is written well enough, it will evoke some kind of emotion within the reader. Any kind of emotion is good.

Both Rowling and Meyer have succeeded in doing this in their novels, though in vastly different ways.

I have experienced so many different types of emotions while reading the Potter series. Between plot and character development, Rowling has made the story come alive through her words. I have never hated a character the way I hate Bellatrix Lestrange. She makes my skin crawl when I read her in the books. Listening to her goad Harry in OOTP in the Ministry scene, imagining her screaming high pitched voice in my head, made me want to reach into the pages and pull her hair out. Rowling also did a great job of this with Delores Umbridge, though for me, not with the intensity that she did with Bellatrix.

When reading a book makes me cry, I feel like the author has done their job. Not that every book I read I want to make me cry, but if it has, I feel like it has made me think, and been descriptive enough for me to know that this was no second rate bit of fiction.

Potter has made me cry. I cried when Dumbledore died. Like really cried. Bawled, in fact. I really didn’t see that one coming. I had to re-read those last few chapters a few times in order to believe that what I read was true.

There were several instances in DH that I let loose. I always loved Hedwig! I know that her death was supposed to symbolize the loss of Harry’s innocence, maybe that’s part of the reason that it affected me so bad. That and how it happened – so quick! Another time where I had to re-read several paragraphs over again until it sank in.

DH was full of tearful moments. Can we say:
Mad Eye
Uh…Dobby!
Fred….sniff!

Mostly though, the final walk that Harry took out to the forest to meet his fate with Voldemort. Passing Hagrid’s hut, all the memories that went through his mind, knowing that he was going into the forest to die. Bawling, bawling, bawling, through the whole chapter. I think the reason for this is just that Rowling had turned Harry into such a monumental character. Reading all the books, you watch him grow, feel like you’re growing with him. You see his goodness, see his insecurities. Relish in his joy, feel his pain. Losing his parents when he was so young, his burning desire to have them back in his life, it was heartbreaking to watch him look into the Mirror of Erised, to see the glimmer of hope after seeing them in the graveyard in GOF, admitting to Ron and Hermione in DH that the hallow of his choice would be the resurrection stone. You just feel so bad as he takes that walk, because you wonder how this could possibly be the end for him, after he has been through so much.

Twilight made me feel like a teenager again reading it. I enjoyed the story – all four books – it made me laugh in some places, especially where Emmett was involved. Made me swoon in others, always where Edward was involved. I know that this story is far from realistic, but the fact that Bella and Edward were absolutely, totally irrevocably in love with each other after such a short time was a bit for me to swallow.

With Twilight I was able to push aside any parts where I felt like rolling my eyes and just allow myself to get lost in the characters and the plot. It’s a sexy series, the whole vampire thing is easy to get caught up in. How the fundamental properties of Edward’s being makes him a deadly predator, yet the way he lives his life – or should I say his existence is in direct contradiction to that. Just because he is technically a monster doesn’t mean he has to be one. It’s all sort of tragic.

Overall, I loved both series, though I loved Harry Potter leaps and bounds more. Everything about it was just better. Even though it was a lot tamer in the love scene department, it doesn’t change the victory dance that I did in HBP when Harry FINALLY realizes his love for Ginny. Now that is fiction. On a whole other level.