Just Another Bookworm

Houses of Horror

Houses of Horror - Hans Holzer I must say it saddens me to be disappointed by a book I was so eager to read. Houses of Horror is a compilation of some of the house hauntings studied by author and parapsychologist Hans Holzer. Each chapter spotlights a particular case, or multiple cases occurring in the same area, in Mr. Holzer's career of studying and releasing spirits trapped between worlds and unable to rest peacefully. This type of work appeals to me, as I've had a long-time interest in the occult.

After several chapters, my disappointment began to settle in as each chapter vaguely resembles every other. The author does not live up to the "horror" promised in the title and simply explains the same, repetitive spiritual behavior in each house, which rarely strays from phantom footsteps, "uneasy" feelings of an unseen presence, random figures in the dark that disappear when the lights go on, and other various noises. Nothing about Holzer's accounts inspired any feelings one expects when reading ghost stories. Rather, the stories should be more accurately marketed as various cases of a professional parapsychologist, and nothing more. An aggravating reoccurance is the lack of closure in many of the cases, while others are hardly more than snippets of cases that seem just thrown in at will, giving very little detail, background, or substance at at all. A paragraph or two of "fluff" from an unrelated case appear in many of the earlier chapters, becoming rarer as the book progresses.

The unnecessary "fluff" and lack of assumed horror can be easily overlooked as the author offers interesting insight into a lesser-known, sometimes taboo, profession and a greatly mysterious subject matter, however the excessive occurance of typographical errors shows a complete lack of proper editing. As the third edition (the first published in 1970),one would expect such obvious mistakes be corrected at some point. Nevertheless, my personal experience reading this book was marred by lack of proper spacing between words and numerous punctuation errors.

Finally, the repetitive nature in which the chapters are written dispelled some of the original curiosity I had for what each individual story would contain. Holzer gives the background of the case, summarizes his visit to the house (usually involving a trance medium), and after a short communication with the spirit, convincing them their work on earth is done so they can cross over. Many simply end with the author's hope that his visit ceased the disturbances, not offering any proper conclusion or follow-up. I found myself wondering if my copy was missing pages that satisfactorily closed a few of the chapters, but alas, mine is fully intact.

I really enjoyed the ride along in such a fascinating field, learning many new factoids and methods concerning the procedure for dispelling ghosts from a home, as well as insight into the various manifestations of ESP, and do so recommend to anyone particularly interested in such topics. But if a good scare is what you're looking for, Houses of Horror will not satisfy.

Jurassic Park

Jurassic Park - Michael Crichton Never a disappointment to science fiction fans, I have found that Crichton's novels are always the quality readers want to read and writers want to achieve. His 'Jurassic Park' trilogy not only thrilled millions of readers worldwide, they successfully terrified movie-goers.

John Hammond, an elderly billionaire with a passion for dinosaurs, has purchased his own island off the coast of Coast Rica, hired the top scientists in engineering, genetics, mathematics, and various other fields, and had dinosaurs grown from bits of preserved DNA, all for the sake of the greatest zoological attraction for children in the world. When problems begin occurring on the super-secret island attraction-in-progress known as "Jurassic Park", it's a true battle of man versus nature as the occupants of this secluded island come face-to-face with their own prehistoric creations- monsters that were never meant to coexist with humankind. Paleontologist Dr. Alan Grant is summoned from his most recent dig to tour the island, along with his assistant Dr. Ellie Sattler, in the hopes of recruiting Grant to back the island's creation and join Hammond's team. Hammond even shows his confidence in his prehistoric replica that he also includes his own two young grandchildren in the first-ever guided tour of the park. It takes very little time for the flaws of this plan to become evident, leaving everyone at the mercy of animals they know very little about. Fighting for control, as well as survival, the island's occupants experience the horror of creature who it seems are probably extinct for a reason.

Much more than merely a thrilling work of fiction, this novel carries a greater message to the reader, a warning of the dangers of advancing technology for the sake of glory and riches, without consideration for whether their advancements should take place just because they can, and without fully understanding the technology they're dealing with. Jurassic Park addresses specifically the on-going debate surrounding the ethical use of DNA engineering, and serves as a global warning of its potentially disastrous effects. This is mostly done through the rantings of one Dr. Ian Malcolm, a mathematician enlisted to help make Jurassic Park functional, though he doesn't share the views of John Hammond. Through Malcolm, Crichton delivers several deep, philosophical tirades about man trying to control nature without realizing that nature cannot be controlled, and even long after man has destroyed themselves, and maybe even all current life on the planet, the ancient earth will survive, and eventually life will spring up again, adapted to whatever changes have occurred to the planet. It will be like man never existed. This lesson is delivered so passionately by the character that no reader can ignore or deny the truth in his words.

A fascinating read with a strong message, Jurassic Park is the perfect read for all sci-fi fans. The wide variety of characters' backgrounds and personalities, the heart-pounding scenes, and exquisitely descriptive language bring the existence of Jurassic Park to life for the reader in a way I have never before experienced in this genre.


Eldest  - Christopher Paolini Young Paolini's second installment of the Inheritance Cycle exceeds expectations, following the success of Eragon. One of the most widely read young adult fantasy series, the Inheritance Cycle follows farm-boy-turned-Dragon-Rider, Eragon and his dragon Saphira to all ends of their world of Alagaesia to avenge the death of Eragon's uncle, Garrow, to destroy the evil King Galbatorix, and to restore peace and prosperity to all races in the land.Along the way, many allies, as well as enemies, are made, weaving a memorable storyline with a complex web of memorable characters.
Eldest begins and ends in the wake of battle, with Eragon and Saphira's grand adventures and personal growth filling the pages in between. We also follow the struggles of Eragon's hometown of Carvahall through the eyes of his cousin Roran, another strong personality fighting for the greater good, among his own personal reasons.
I did find this book to be slow-moving and often difficult to keep my attention on, as many long journeys and battles take place, as is almost mandatory for the fantasy genre. Yet I also found myself unable to put it down for long, desperate to discover the many plot twists and secrets along the way.
My personal opinion is that one cannot be a fan of the fantasy genre, adults and young adults alike, and pass up the chance to briefly live in the world of Alagaesia through the four Eragon novels. While some parts are slow-moving and tedious, I encourage every reader to continue on, as every scene is significant in some way, to the series as a while. If nothing else, the characters and races represented show great thought and imagination and make the series definitely deserving og the hype that followed its publication. Readers, and all fans of the fantasy genre, do yourselves a favor and pick up the Inheritance Cycle- you won't be disappointed.

The Lost Symbol

The Lost Symbol - Dan Brown In this sequel to the literary and cinematic phenomenon The Da Vinci Code, symbologist Robert Langdon is once again thrown into the world of the Freemasons. Finally, this one takes place on his own U.S. soil. Summoned to the country's capital, Langdon becomes entangled in the lore and well-hidden secrets of the ultra-secret society when a mysterious object is discovered in the Capitol Building and his long-time friend and known-Mason Peter Solomon is kidnapped by a madman who has successfully infiltrated the Masons, reaching the coveted 33rd degree with the intention of personally gaining, as well as divulging their greatest secrets and using them to take down the society.
Accompanied by Peter's sister Katherine, Langdon follows the trail of clues left by ancient Masons to find his friend in time to save his life. Plunged deep within hidden passages and tunnels weaving through Washington, D.C., following Langdon is once again as much a learning experience for the reader as a cunningly well-written thriller, filled with as much fact as fiction.
My only complaint with this series is the lack of subject variation. All three novels revolve around the Freemasons and Illuminati, societies Langdon is not even a member of. I would love to see this world-famous symbologist delve into the secrets of another culture or society. While all three novels are gripping and fascinating, a little variation in subject matter would be a welcome change in my eyes, and show Brown's talent as a writer and researcher to introduce readers to another side of Robert Langdon- a side that is fluent in other areas of symbology.
Well worth the read to history buffs, as well as fans of thrillers. The famous Langdon novels are not to be missed!


Ascend  - Amanda Hocking I picked up this book with great expectations. Hocking's Trylle series has become one of my favorite Young Adult series and couldn't wait to see what surprises the author had in store for the conclusion of this fantasy series and the plethora of unique characters created to exist in it.

Wendy is forced to grow up fast when she is faced with the impending death of her mother Elora, Queen of the Trylle, becoming Queen herself and running a kingdom she has only barely gotten to know, turning eighteen, and her arranged marriage to her friend Tove, a powerful Markis with a very influential family. Of course, there's still the issue of Wendy's love for the tracker Finn, a pairing that would require both to be banished from Forening, and Finn's insistance that duty come before love. While it pains Wendy to see Finn working around the palace, knowing he's made his choice and can't be her's, she focuses her energy on preparing the kingdom for war with their rival Changeling clan, the Vittra.

Ascend opens on the eve of Wendy's eighteenth birthday. Like any other eighteen-year old, she spends the evening laughing and havinga care-free time with her friends. She knows this will be the last time she'll be allowed to have this time with them all, regardless of their place (or lack thereof) in Trylle society. Matt, the brother she grew up with, is just an average human, the equivalence of pond scum in this high-nosed society. Willa is Wendy's closest friend and the most powerful Marksinna. An outgoing girly-girl, she is a perfect compliment to Wendy's often un-ladylike behaviors and helps her look and act the part of the respectable Queen she must be, and even grows herself, into the government-involved Marksinna. Though Willa is on thin ice herself, secretly in a relationship with Matt- a crime punishable by banishing. Rhys and Rhiannon are manks- they are the human babies taken from the host families and raised in Trylle society, usually treated no better than servants. Duncan, Wendy's new tracker since Finn became reassigned, proves to be an invaluable asset to Wendy throughout the book, as he is a dedicated friend, fiercely loyal and desperate to prove himself as a tracker (even if he's not cut out for combat...).

Other returning characters are Elora, Wendy's mother and Queen of the Trylle; Aurora, Tove's mother and an icy, bitter woman; the perverted Chancellor, whose thoughts of Wendy make Tove very angry; Garrett, Finn's father and Elora's long-time lover, and Oren, Wendy's father and King of the Vittra, among many others.

In the second book, we met Loki, a Vittra Markis who sneaks into the palace courtyard and begs Wendy to run away with him. In Ascend, we find Loki battered and bruised at the door to the palace, and Wendy takes charge, depending on her closest friends to keep the secret of his presence while he heals and she can determine the reason for coming to Forening, of all places. Loki's charming, witty, sarcastic personality draw Wendy right in- instead of just harboring an enemy, she falls in love with him also.

Three days after her eighteenth birthday, Wendy and Tove are married, followed by a reception in which Wendy is to dance with everyone who asks. Tove has exceptionally strong powers and is a powerful backer to all of Wendy's ideas, but the marriage creates a certain awkwardness between the couple. When Elora dies, finally drained of energy from years of using her powers, Wendy has three days before she must be crowned Queen, ending the truce with the Vittra, leaving the kingdom open for an attack they can't possibly win. The Trylle look on in horror as the Vittra decimate other Changling cities, just waiting for the chance to take over Forening. Seeing no better way to save her people, Wendy convinces Loki to take her to Oren, her father and King of the Vittra. Wendy knows Oren wants her for his own, as her powers are the strongest seen in a very long time, or he will ensure she can side with no one. Swearing love and loyalty to her, Loki takes her to the very man who nearly killed him for not bringing Wendy to him in the second book. Doing things her own way, as she often prefers, Wendy works out a deal with the King: no more attacks on any Changlings until she is crowned Queen, and in return, she will unite Forening with the Vittra and rule under him. Oren greedily takes the deal, unaware that this Princess will not let her kingdom go that easily.

While preparing to attack the Vittra unaware to gain the upper hand, Tove reveals to Wendy that he's gay, and they both admit they are not in love with each other. Tove's argument on the matter is especially moving: Trylle have very short lives due to their powers draining their life energy away, and with as strong at Tove's powers are, he pointed out that he would not have a long life and he'd like the chance to fall in love. They agree to an annullment as soon as the war with the Vittra ends, the first real decision made based on one's own happiness versus the good of the kingdom, though Tove would remain at her side, helping her make the changes she, and most of her generation, want to see in a kingdom that never shys from the old customs.

I was really unsatisfied at how much plot and content Hocking crammed into this third book. I strongly believe more should have been included in some scenes, such as the final war scene, the wedding reception, and her meeting with Oren. I also felt the last several chapters, the epitome of the entire book, were rushed and lacking in detail and minor content. The epilogue, the update on everyone a year later, was the greatest disappointment for me. It would have felt more natural to see the events that transpired over that year's time in a fourth book, where the characters and relationships would get the recognition they should have instead of a short summary of everyone's lives. It just felt too unnatural to me for Wendy Everly to be a mother, and it broke my heart to see Finn with a family of his own, just a page-turn away from the post-battle wrap-up. While I respect the author's decisions concerning the characters' relationships, I will always be a Wendy-Finn shipper (for you hardcore book bloggers who know what that means), even more so after he has become forbidden to her. But even Finn gets to find love in the end, and Wendy and Loki get to rule as King and Queen and unite the kingdoms under a positive rule aimed at changing their world to accomodate and enliven their dying culture to fit better with thoughts and ideals of the human world around them.

I can say, without a doubt, that I am sad this series is over. My only regret is that the epilogue ruins any hopes I previously had that Hocking would decide to write another. It's like a giant stamp over the last page that reads: AND THEY ALL LIVED HAPPILY EVER AFTER.

Eragon (The Inheritance Cycle, #1)

Eragon (The Inheritance Cycle, #1) - Christopher Paolini What can I say about this fantastic beginning to one of the most popular YA fantasy series of our time that hasn't already been said numerous times? Paolini was a best-selling author by the time he was nineteen, with plenty more in store for Eragon and his dragon, Saphira, on their quest to overthrow the evil king of Alagaesia and revive the nearly-forgotten group of the Dragon Riders, who once patrolled and kept the country safe before the betrayal and rise to power of Galbatorix. What was originally planned to be a trilogy of novels has gone above and beyond to include four novels and a motion picture adaptation.

Paolini uses some well-known creatures of fantasy, such as elves, dragons and dwarves. The young author used mostly his imagination to create his own dark minions for King Galbatorix. His expendable foot soldiers are the brutish Urgals, his trackers of Eragon and Saphira, are the dangerous, dark-cloaked Ra'zac, and his elite general, of a recognizable race, is the Shade Durza.

When a young farm boy named Eragon finds a mysterious blue stone in the woods, he keeps it in hopes of selling it to help support his uncle, cousin Roran, and himself. Warned by townsfolk against keeping it, Eragon eventually discovers this "stone" is not at all what it appears to be when young Saphira, one of the last dragons in Alagaesia, hatches from it, feeling Eragon worthy to be her Rider and marking his palm with the sign of a Rider.

When his home is attacked and his uncle killed by Ra'zac searching for Saphira's egg, Eragon and Saphira depend on the local storyteller, Brom, to lead them on a mission for revenge, safety, and preparation for both to face the most powerful tyrant Alagaesia has ever suffered. Spurred by his expulsion from the Dragon Riders upon the death of his own dragon, Galbatorix raised an army, destroying all signs of the Dragon Riders besides his own fire-breathing replacement familiar.

Brom trains Eragon in sword-fighting, dragon-riding, and magic while on the run, hunted by Durza and his Urgal minions. Under Galbatorix's command, the Shade has been sent to bring the pair to him, to force them to join him, before they can side with the Varden, an underground group determined to end the King's reign. With knowledge of dragons, magic, and combat far beyond that of a village storyteller, Eragon knows he is hiding something, a secret that becomes clear to the reader long before the characters catch on- Brom was once a Rider himself. He eventually divulges that he was sent to wait for Saphira's egg to hatch, to protect and train her chosen Rider. Along their journey to track the Ra'zac and locate the hidden Varden, their group runs into various characters- some there to help, others to do them harm; some stay for only a few chapters, while others stay for much longer. After a skirmish, Brom is mortally wounded, his death means Eragon and Saphira no longer know how to reach the Varden. They later meet a young man named Murtagh, who shows them the way to the Varden's hideout amongst the dwarves, risking his own imprisonment upon arrival for being the son of the Riders' ultimate traitor, Morzan.

This novel is as much a coming-of-age story as much as it is a fight between good and evil, as young Eragon is thrown unexpectedly into manhood, and could not be a more complete introduction to the world of the Inheritance Cycle. With so many intricate events and details, no review could ever completely do justice to this well-written, engrossing novel, straight from the mind of a fellow young adult, the primary market for this series, but like "Twilight," "The Hunger Games," and "Harry Potter," the Inheritance Cycle also attracts adults, for once you pick up "eragon," no matter your age, just reading the first book is not enough. An easy five stars and a definite re-read (especially as this is my second time reading the novel). Keep an eye out for my later reviews of the remaining Inheritance Cycle novels: "Eldest," "Brisingr," and "Inheritance."

The Fine Art of Literary Mayhem: A Lively Account of Famous Writers & Their Feuds

The Fine Art of Literary Mayhem: A Lively Account of Famous Writers & Their Feuds - Myrick Land Hemingway, Dickens, Wells- These and many other famous authors have become immortalized as generation after generation pass along their works, most earning the title of 'modern classic'. What readers don't consider is that these writers had lives outside of the words on the pages, and just like the famous media stars of today, their lives were sometimes driven to create drama. Only, their feuds with each other tended to be a little more subtle than the paparazzi fighting to get the best pictures and stories of those involved, though several legendary fights Land tells of do involve arguing in public. Newspaper pages became their most popular fighting ring- each writer's response to his opponent's editorial or book review from the week before. Another well-used weapon from one author to another involved creating ridiculous characters for their novels, loosely based on the target, where the writer can control and emphasize every aspect of their opponent's life and personality.

Myrick Land recreates the time periods for each feud by really submersing the reader in direct quotes from memoirs, magazines, newspapers, and countless other sources, including interviews he himself conducted with some of the parties involved to get every detail of the arguments and reprocutions.

Land successfully portrays the personalities and qualities of all these literary heroes so the reader can get to know them beyond their name on the cover of your favorite novels. Which famous authors were trouble-makers? Who quivered in the corner when called out by another's attack? A fascinating collection of the various feuds- from Norman Mailer and James Baldwin to Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald, this author has now immortalized a side of these legends few know or think about. It is a well-written, to-the-point account of some of their more famous social contributions and more sinister character creations.

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane - Katherine Howe Katherine Howe's 2009 novel, The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane follows Harvard graduate student Connie Goodwin through the summer of 1991, unfortunately divided between research for her dissertation (with her adviser actively pushing her to find her primary source), and the great task of cleaning out her late grandmother's old house in Marblehead, Massachusetts so it could be sold. Her initial inspection of the house produced a key hidden in a Bible, with the name 'Deliverance Dane' on a small scroll inside it. A student in American Colonial history, she is quick on the trail of a possible primary source, the study of which would secure her high reputation in her field. Appearing only in the town's records, deceased in 1692, and not listed in the church's records suggested that Deliverance was probably a previously unaccounted for victim of the Salem witch trials. Public records indicated a book-like item being transferred upon death through her family, whether an almanack (sic) or a receipt book, but they stop before giving away a very current location. When her new love interest's life is on the line, the "Book of Deliverance Dane" becomes more important than ever. Along the way Connie discovers just how much people are willing to sacrifice to possess this 'shadow book'.

Intermingled throughout Connie's story is the tale of Deliverance Dane from the very beginning of the Salem witch hunt, through the eyes of her young daughter, Mercy. Deliverance made her living doing "physick," a sort of magic, and was often called upon by neighbors to cure an ailment or save a runt calf. She kept a book of her recipes and incantations, passed on through the women in her family for generations. When she wrongly diagnoses a dying young girl and gives the wrong "physick," her father blames Deliverance for her death, and upon the scream of witch from a few of the town's young girls, he saw his chance for revenge and claimed she purposely killed her daughter through instruction of the Devil. As panic strikes this small colonial town, Mercy must take her mother's book and run, go to the house in the next town that her mother had provided for her protection. But most of all, she had to save her mother's healing craft, and continue its practice in secret.

Clearly, extensive research and knowledge went into this novel, both of the Salem witch trials and the Colonial period in general. The appearance and personality are accurate according to written accounts of this period, as well as portraits still preserved today. With a plethora of unexpected twists and turns, this novel teaches readers a little bit about a very monumental event in our country's history, and the severe consequences of fanaticism and widespread panic. I think The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane deserves the full five out of five stars for combining a great thriller and an amazing historical novel.

The Beak of the Finch: A Story of Evolution in Our Time

The Beak of the Finch: A Story of Evolution in Our Time - Jonathan Weiner A very complete and persuasive argument for evolution, Jonathan Weiner accompanies and interviews some of the most respected professionals in the fields of biology- evolutionists, ecologists, ornithologists, botanists, conservationists, geneticists, molecular biologists, and microbiologists, all showing how evolution is occurring, and in some cases physically observed, in their respective fields. Creationists beware, this book may change your mind. The author's primary focus lies with the finches Charles Darwin studied so intensively in the Galapagos Islands in the 1800s, and mirrors his findings and experiences with those of Peter and Rosemary Grant's first eleven years continuing his work, pointing out where his beliefs were wrong and following his hunches to discover habits and relationships they never would have thought to connect. Weiner accompanies the Grants several times throughout their trips to Daphne Major, as well as Genovesa, San Cristobal, and other volcanic islands that make up the Galapagos archipelago, getting a first-hand look at the evolution taking place, himself.

The author provides the facts and figures the finch-watchers collect, proof that these animals are physically changing over the generations to fit best into their particular niche on the island. Beak size or shape, body size, claw usage, they are all changing to get the most out of their environment, and as the environment changes, particularly when under flood or drought, the changes move into the direction that will best fit the new environment. He also clears up the line between what is simply an adaptation in a species, and what changes suggest a whole new species has been created.

Evolution is also shown through experimentation and observation of other birds, insects, bacterium, fish, flowering plants, and molecules from all around the world. The science of this is broken down so thoroughly that one does not need to be familiar with the subject before picking up this book, because everything is well-explained, and Weiner doesn't waste time getting off-topic to explain a theory or scientific process not necessary to understand why and how these changes happen.

Human evolution is also spotlighted, giving a brief history of how we have changed since branching off from the other primates. He also touches on the subject of human consciousness, why we seem to be the only creatures able to develop it, and whether it's possible for other conscious beings to live on another planet- a mystery forever plaguing the evolutionary community.

Well-deserving of its Pulitzer Prize, "The Beak of the Finch" is a fantastic read for anyone interested in biology or evolution theory. Well-organized, well-written, and stimulating enough not to bore the casual reader. I gave it five out of five stars and admire Jonathan Weiner as an author for traveling all over the world out of commitment to the study of his subject.


Torn  - Amanda Hocking In Hocking's first Trylle novel "Switched", I fell in love with Finn right along with Wendy (and just about every other female reader!). In this sequel, I became upset at Wendy, Finn, the author, everyone involved, for the events that transpired as I tore through the novel, waiting for the ultimate moment when Finn throws himself at the princess and finally demands they be together forever, no matter the cost! Sadly, I was greatly disappointed. As Finn repeatedly chooses duty over love and slowly fades into the background of Wendy's mind, he is replaced so quickly by the Vittra Markis Loki, and his request to marry her and run away together, completely freeing themselves of troll-kind. Actually, I noticed while reading that Wendy has an awkward relationship with every male character in her age range... She has orders to keep a distance between herself and Rhys after being caught asleep in his bedroom, she is frowned upon by many for her insistence in keeping Matt at the palace, she loves Finn but has to hide it and never be with him while he still works in the Palace, she's been caught kissing Loki, the mortal enemy, who later begs for her love and all the while still finds time to help Elora and Aurora plan her upcoming marriage to the homosexual Tove. I find it hard to sympathize with Wendy with all the romance drama and broken hearts she seems to create. Thankfully, other romances are uncovered and will shock every reader!

The plot follows Wendy on the road to becoming Queen of the Trylle and sheds some light on why the Vittra are so desperate to get their hands on her. I was not as impressed by this novel as I was with "Switched" and felt constantly conflicted about which male character she would gravitate to next. There is some much-needed development in Wendy's relationships with Elora, Willa, and Tove, as she accepts her responsibilities as the Princess and begins to grow into the role.

While the story line does progress a necessary amount for a trilogy, it lacked the rushes of excitement every reader craves and the passion one expects from a young adult novel. With one book left in the Trilogy, Hocking can definitely still redeem herself in my eyes. I still look forward to "Ascend", with high hopes and expectations. I gave it three out of five stars because while it was just okay in my eyes, I still absolutely love the series and characters, I just wish they'd make up their minds already!!!

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass - Lewis Carroll Originally written off as unintelligent nonsense, Carroll's "Alice" books have entertained generations of adults and children alike. Starring the young Alice, created based on the young Alice Liddell, a child Carroll met at a picnic in July of 1862, where he began to tell the little girl a story of her following a white rabbit down his rabbit hole and onto this remarkable adventure that he writes down and eventually publishes in 1865, as the insistence of the girl's family. Marketed as a children's book when it was first written, Carroll was able to mock every aspect of Victorian English society in the seemingly innocent dream sequences of a seven-year old girl. Renowned for its eccentric and colorful cast of characters and nonsense conversations, researchers and literary experts are still discovering potential meanings in Carroll's works, revealing the author's true opinions of the social and political world he was born into.

In the novels, the White Rabbit is believed to represent a petty bureaucrat, constantly concerned with his own image and schedule, with little to no concern for the problems of others. The author also uses well-known nursery rhyme characters, Humpty Dumpty for example, to emphasize and tap into the familiar childhood fantasy of all readers familiar with this rhyme. Another character-type he utilizes in this humorous hodge-podge is the brave, noble knight archetype. Putting his own bias into the character, he made him slow, clumsy, and barely able to stay on his horse- a bit of a blow to the idea of the flawless White Knight come to save the day. Among these are the universally well-know Cheshire Cat, "Mad" Hatter, the March Hare, and the outspoken Dormouse.

All in all, it's quite easy to see how the "Alice" books have become classics- the uniqueness and child-like humor camouflaging adult undertones of political and social opinions and mockery would have made a much bigger impact in the late-1800s had readers at the time saw past the silliness and into the heart of the work. Presently, upon further researching and extensive searches for deeper meanings, we can now appreciate Carroll as a respectable writer instead of as the creator of sheer nonsense to entertain the fantasies of children. I gave it four out of five stars.

The Forest of Hands and Teeth

The Forest of Hands and Teeth  - Carrie Ryan The "young adult" label finds its way to the zombie craze in this book series. "The Forest of Hands and Teeth" is the story of Mary, a teenager displaced and orphaned in a world over run with Unconsecrated. After a sheltered life in a small, fenced-in village being told there is nothing left of the world but the forest and the undead, Mary is eager to find out if her mother's stories of the ocean are true. When the fences are breached and survival depends on escaping the village, Mary, her best friend Cass, the man she loves, Travis, her betrothed, Harry, her brother Jed and his wife, and Jacob, a young boy whose parents were turned by Unconsecrated sneak out through a fenced path and begin their adventure in the Forest. The secret arrival of a girl into the village has Mary convinced she and Travis can find the ocean and figure out how to live happily ever after, despite the death surrounding them seemingly everywhere they go.
As is a staple feature of young adult novels, there is great emphasis on the relationship between Mary and Travis. As the village rule-makers, the Sisterhood, decree, Mary is betrothed to the first guy of age who asks the Sisterhood to be married to her. Her very close friend Harry asks for her, despite her love for his brother Travis, who is betrothed to Cass. Once outside the village and no longer under the Sisterhood's rule, this makes for and interesting, awkward social dynamic, as Cass is openly in love with Harry.
Besides this being the first young adult novel I have seen taking place in a zombie-infested world, very little is unique in this novel from other of the genre. A brave young girl fighting some force much bigger than herself while struggling for the guy she loves. I have read this same scenario repeatedly, and while it does appeal to teens, it's beyond predictable and does get a little old. I gave this novel three of five stars. I did enjoy it, but felt it was nothing spectacular and will probably pass on the rest of the series.

America's Endangered Wildlife

America's Endangered Wildlife - George Laycock "America's Endangered Wildlife" is a comprehensive wealth of information about individual species disappearing right from our own back yards. The author delves deep into sixteen individual species especially threatened and gives tips for how they can be saved from the brink, and also summarizes the plight of almost a hundred total species. I found this to be an informative and interesting work, but having read it purely for leisure, I found it to be quite unmemorable. Just a day after finishing the book, I found myself combing the pages for inspiration in writing this review.
Laycock is an authority on American wildlife and conservation, having penned several books on the subject. This one in particular is a valuable resource for anyone interested in protecting these animals, most threatened solely by humans invading and destroying their natural habitats.
I gave this book four out of five stars for highlighting such a worthy cause and bringing the issue of threatened and endangered American animal species. I really hope this book finds its way into the hands of more and more people determined to help with this issue for generations to come.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - Stieg Larsson I always regret when an amazing piece of literature is in publication for years before the masses catch on. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a very successful crime novel hailing from Sweden, by author Stieg Larsson. It finally reached mass popularity in the United States upon the release of its movie adaptation. Suddenly, copies of the novel and its subsequent The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest started appearing in stores all over the country, and they were flying off the shelves.

"The Girl" these novels follow is Lisbeth Salander- the quiet, tattooed, and eccentric freelance investigator for a security company. She joins black-listed journalist Mikael Blomkvist on the job of a lifetime. Mikael is approached by the elderly Henrik Vanger, former-CEO of the Vanger Corporation, and patriarch of the Vanger family. After pleading guilty to a libel charge he did not commit and stepping down as publisher of his own Millennium magazine. Blomkvist is looking at financial ruin and the collapse of his magazine, so he reluctantly accepts the old man's request to relocate to his family's private island for a year and write a chronicle of Henrik, his family, and their lives as majority share holders of a successful multinational corporation. The one catch is that while collecting information for the biography, Blomkvist must also try to solve the 30+ years old disappearance of Henrik's niece Harriet from that very island.

As Mikael seems to be uncovering new clues and information, Henrik's personal lawyer hires Lisbeth Salander to aid Blomkvist in his extensive digging into the events of the day Harriet disappeared. Initially cold, quiet, and difficult to get through to, Mikael and Lisbeth begin to trust and respect each other for their skill in their chosen fields, forming a perfect team to pry into the lives of this rich and respected family and prove that everyone has skeletons needing to stay in the closet.

The character who seems the least to be changed by this year-long adventure is actually the character we see the most throughout the story. Salander remains very cold and distant, virtually uncaring, until well into her partnership with Blomkvist. Toward the end, we see her heart start to thaw a little and her true thoughts and she begins to allow herself to have emotions toward people, even if she never shows them. Having not yet read the next two books, I would believe this social acclimation place a central role throughout the series.

I found The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo to be a very brilliant crime novel with fascinating characters and a very unique crime to solve. I would definitely give it five out of five stars and highly recommend to everyone.

'Salem's Lot

'Salem's Lot - Jerry Uelsmann, Stephen King As a die-hard Stephen King fan, I am shocked it took me so long to finally read this, one of his most popular works. To add to the powerful impact the town of Jerusalem's Lot and its residents has on the reader, this special edition includes two short stories King penned about this notorious town, in addition to deleted scenes from the original manuscript. The final little extra included in this particular edition is a collection of black-and-white photos, depicting the mood and emotion King wants his readers to experience during the novel. Of course, nothing can do justice to the vividly horrifying scenes King's words paint in the readers' minds.

The story is set in the minuscule town of Jerusalem's Lot, Maine, an ancient village with more than it's share of secrets. Looming over 'the Lot', just outside of town, is the infamous Marsten House, an abandoned mansion with extreme superstitions surrounding it after centuries of mysterious occupants, homicide, and suicide. It is in this mansion that writer Ben Mears had the most terrifying experience of his childhood, and it is because of this house that he is back in 'Salem's Lot, determined to end the nightmares his visit to Marsten House cause him. Shortly after Ben moves into the local boardinghouse to write his next book, two mysterious men also arrive in town- and they've bought the evil house on the hill. Little is known about Straker and his companion Barlow, and town gossip fills in all the unknowns about the men and their business in 'Salem's Lot. Their arrivals signal the end of the peace in this sleepy town, and the beginning of unexplained deaths and disappearances after the sun goes down. Befriending high school teacher Matt Burke and the young Susan Norton, Ben works to discover the cause of the deaths. Later joined by Dr. Jimmy Cody, the orphaned Mark Petrie, and local priest Father Callahan, the group fights for the good to foil Barlow's plan to create an Undead following of the townspeople. It's a fight of good versus evil, mortality versus the ancient wisdom of the immortals, in a village virtually unknown to the rest of the world.

The short stories included are "Jerusalem's Lot" and "One For the Road." "Jerusalem's Lot" is a collection of letters and journal entries written by two men residing in Marsten House long before the time in which the novel occurs and gives much back story to the evil that looms over the house and nearby town, which lays deserted for reasons unknown. It shows a man's gradual descent into madness at the hands of the supernatural evil inhabiting the town's church, and his companion's horror at the change. "One For the Road" is a more modern tale of the Lot, told shortly after the novel takes place, when the city is once again abandoned, save for the evil undead that stalk in the night. The addition of a past and a future beyond human lifetimes solidifies the immortality of the vampiric force constantly feeding on the life around Marsten House.

Stephen King's vampires are those straight out of Bram Stoker's classic Dracula. They're the vampires who originally haunted the pages of literature at the dawn of the horror genre. They fear holy artifacts, burn in the sunlight, can not enter a home uninvited, and can only be destroyed by a stake to the heart. These evil beings, coupled with the darkness that already looms over the town in Marsten House creates the perfect horror story scene in a very modern world, as if it could actually have happened last week.

It is very easy to see why 'Salem's Lot was such an instant success back in 1975. The heavy darkness that fills every page is exactly what horror fans crave and why Mr. King is the authority in the modern horror genre. An easy five out of five stars.

The Goblin Wood

The Goblin Wood - Hilari Bell In what turned out to be an addicting fantasy novel, Hilari Bell shows love and compassion for goblins, a race often seen in a negative light in fantasy novels.

Betrayed by her own human race, Makenna, a young hedgewitch, flees her village after her mother's execution and finds herself in the company of goblins. With a decree demanding all independent magic wielders are in league with dark forces, a crime demanding execution, she finds refuge among these magical creatures and becomes their leader in the fight to keep humans from settling in their land. Flash forward five years and we're introduced to Tobin, a dishonored knight offered a chance to regain his post, if he can help rid the Northern woods of it's goblin inhabitants to make way for human migration. Captured by Makenna and her goblin army, Tobin is forced to see them as the peaceful, victimized beings they are, dividing his loyalties. Now, it's all-out war, and Tobin has to pick a side. To side with the goblins would be the "right" thing to do, but his friends, family, and a comfortable life as a lord await him should he help the humans exterminate the goblins.

I thoroughly loved this novel! The characters are all very liable and complex, and the society the author created for the goblins is just as magical as the creatures themselves. She gives them a myriad of abilities, creating sub-cultures to complicate a normally cut-and-dried fantasy species.

I found the ending aggravating, though appropriate to allow for a sequel. Told from both Makenna and Tobin in alternating chapters, the reader can appreciate the internal conflicts for both main characters, and sympathize with their struggles. I gave this book a full five of five stars and plan to read the sequel!

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The Performance of Becoming Human
Daniel Borzutzky