Showing posts with label paranormal. Show all posts
Showing posts with label paranormal. Show all posts

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Last 2 Books of 2015!

My last 2 mini-reviews of the year!  I was able to squeeze these in right under the wire, bringing me up to 49 for the year.  Not bad!

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
Little, Brown and Company, 2005
personal purchase

I put this book on my 30 Before 35 list because I've heard raves about it for the last 10 years, and have had a copy on my bookshelf for almost as long, but I kept pushing it off due to the fact that it's a pretty sizeable chunker (676 pages).  I finally picked it up on a whim, not even knowing what it was about, and was pleased to find that it's a historical fiction novel about the legend behind Dracula.  How fortuitous that I read Stoker's famous book just a few months ago!  However, reading Dracula before The Historian is certainly not a requirement, as this book provides more than enough background to keep you on top of things.

Quick synopsis: the narrator is a teenager in the 1970's, living with her father (a diplomat) in Amsterdam.  One day, she stumbles upon some old letters in her father's study, which turn out to be the beginnings of a rather epic mystery surrounding the legend of Lord Dracula.  When, in the midst of learning about this mystery, the narrator's father disappears, she begins her own journey to figure out where he went, what sort of discoveries he made in the past, and what really happened to her mother.

I only gave this book 3 stars on Goodreads, which feels underwhelming, but unless you are a serious fangirl/fanboy of medieval history, this book is surely going to drag in parts.  And I feel bad saying that, because this book is positively overflowing with lavish detail--a more elaborate story would be hard to find.  But that doesn't erase the fact that it's terribly drawn out, the frequent flashbacks making an already-detailed story even tougher to follow at times.  Even so, the mystery at the heart of the story is intriguing, and I enjoyed the little twist in the epilogue.  Thus, 3 stars is accurate for this middle-of-the-road novel.

Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide by Hal Higdon
Rodale Books, 2011 edition
received as a Christmas gift :)

What a surprise, right?  Haha.  Now that I am fairly certain I will be running my first marathon in late 2016, I figured it's time to start doing some reading.  I'm a huge fan of Higdon's race training plans (they have worked for me at both the 15K and half marathon distances), and I plan to use one of his novice marathon plans in the fall.  However, I also have a lot of questions about proper nutrition during training, hydration needs, tricks for staying in the game mentally, etc. and I thought this would be a good place to start.

I was correct in my thinking!  Higdon speaks equally to novice and more advanced runners in this book.  Some of the information was familiar to me after following his programs in the past, but some of it was new as well, and a LOT of it is going to be re-read as I dive into marathon training in the late spring.  In particular, I was very interested in the parts about the different varieties of speedwork (seriously, I still have a hard time telling a fartlek from a stride from intervals...), proper long run pacing, and pre-race nutrition.  Plus, I found this book to be a great motivator in general.  Reading about Higdon's formulas for success has left me feeling excited for the marathon journey ahead.

If you're a newbie marathoner looking for some solid advice starting out, or a more advanced marathoner who wants to shave time off of a PR, Hal Higdon's Marathon is an excellent read to help you get going in the right direction.

What's your last book of 2015?  Runners, any other good marathon training books I should look for?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Book Review: Help for the Haunted by John Searles

Title: Help for the Haunted
Author: John Searles
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date: September 17, 2013
Source: copy received for honest review through TLC Book Tours

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

It begins with a call in the middle of snowy February evening. Lying in her bed, young Sylvie Mason overhears her parents on the phone across the hall. This is not the first late-night call they have received, since her mother and father have an uncommon occupation, helping "haunted souls" find peace. And yet, something in Sylvie senses that this call is different than the rest, especially when they are lured to the old church on the outskirts of town. Once there, her parents disappear, one after the other, behind the church's red door, leaving Sylvie alone in the car. Not long after, she drifts off to sleep only to wake to the sound of gunfire.

Nearly a year later, we meet Sylvie again struggling with the loss of her parents, and living in the care of her older sister, who may be to blame for what happened the previous winter.

As the story moves back and forth in time, through the years leading up to the crime and the months following, the ever inquisitive and tender-hearted Sylvie pursues the mystery, moving closer to the knowledge of what occurred that night, as she comes to terms with her family's past and uncovers secrets that have haunted them for years.


My Review:

It's nearly October, and for me, that means at least some of my reading selections have to get me in the mood for Halloween.  I love a good thriller, mystery, or horror book from time to time, but they're never better than this time of year.  BOO!

Help for the Haunted certainly fits the bill.  Ghosts plus murder mystery = can't go wrong for the season.  Paranormal is not generally my thing, but I like how Searles handled it in this novel.  Ghosts and spirits are not the main point here: Sylvie's quest to understand her parents and their deaths is.  The world of the paranormal that they worked within provides a creepy background ambiance that makes this a little different than your normal mystery or coming-of-age story.

For me, the best thing about this novel was Sylvie herself.  She is an excellent narrator: in her early teens, she is often working just as hard to figure herself out as she is trying to find out what happened to her parents.  As a result, sometimes she comes off as precocious and whip-smart; other times, she makes mistakes typical of any middle-school girl.  The balance in her character is what makes her believable and relatable.  I loved watching her grow emotionally throughout the novel.  I also enjoyed the changes I saw in her parents' characters--especially because, for most of the novel, they are deceased and only described to you through Sylvie's recollections.  My impression of them changed completely as I read, and I love that Searles was able to make them morph so much (even after their deaths) as the story progressed.

The story/mystery itself is also good, though overall, I have to admit I was a little underwhelmed by the time I reached the end.  Obviously this was not because of Sylvie or the narration...and it wasn't the ending itself, which I found to be pleasantly unpredictable (a total must for mysteries, in my eyes).  It may have been the pacing.  I felt like some parts of the novel were unnecessarily drawn out, which pulled me away from the story at times.  Then something great would happen to pull me back in, but those moments of standing still were enough to make me feel a bit "eh" by the whole thing at the end.

So, my final verdict: excellent plot balance and characterization!  Unpredictable mystery!  Ghosts for Halloween!  But, at the end I wasn't bowled over.  I wish things had moved a little more smoothly, because the slower pacing took my head out of the story too many times, and left me with an overall impression at the end that didn't allow me to love it.  This may be more of a personal preference though, so if you're looking for a book that combines mystery and solid characters, this could be a good one to try out (especially this time of year)...

Much thanks to Trish and TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour!
Check out the other blogs on this book tour HERE.  And connect with John Searles on Twitter or see the book trailer HERE.

Have you read any books lately that left you with that "eh" feeling at the end?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Top 10 Things That Make Me Tell A Book To TALK TO THE HAND.

Back in April, I participated in The Broke and The Bookish's Top Ten Tuesday topic: Top 10 Words/Topics That Instantly Make You Buy/Pick Up A Book.  I had fun with that one, and today, they're doing the opposite:

Top Ten Words/Topics That Will Make You NOT Pick Up A Book

I felt it was only appropriate that I cover both sides of the coin.  So, without further ado...

1. Faeries, vampires, and werewolves, oh my.
I'm just not into the paranormal/fantasy thing.  I read the Twilight series because I felt it was my duty as a reader to do so, but I didn't get a lot of enjoyment out of it.  I haven't been motivated to try much else since then.  Is Harry Potter considered fantasy though?  Because I would totally make an exception for that.

2. A cheesy tagline.
Or any tagline, really.  Why does a book need a tagline?  Can you imagine if Jane Austen sat around coming up with taglines?  If you've already chosen a good title, let it speak for itself.  I feel like taglines are just the author saying, "Okay, the title might not have drawn you in, but wait wait wait!  Don't walk away yet noooooooo..."  I don't want to be sold that hard.
Wow. That's crazy. Tell me more.
3. "New adult".
I don't understand this new genre.  Honestly, it seems like they just didn't want to say "erotica for the older YA's".  Yes?  All I know is, my early 20's were not nearly as racy as these authors seem to think.

4. Part 2/3/4/etc of a series.
I am way too type-A to start a series midway through.  I have to start with Part 1, or I'm not starting at all!

5. Fiction written by a "celebrity".
I side-eye anything written (or that claims to be written) by a celebrity (other than biographies/memoirs).  Lauren Conrad writes books?  Whaaaaaaaaaa?

6. Short story collections.
This is one that generally turns me off, but I DO make exceptions.  I greatly prefer novels to short story collections, because I like to really steep myself in a book...short stories pull me out of the plot too quickly.  That said--I will read ANY short stories that Stephen King writes, and I will try other authors if I hear enough good hype about their work beforehand.  (Jhumpa Lahiri, I'm coming for you.)

7. Hey look, boobs!
Erotica is just not my thing.  Much like "new adult" novels, I find them a little ridiculous and hard to take seriously.  WHATEVER, I'M A PRUDE, I KNOW.

8. A message from...above.
Apparently I am a middle-of-the-road reader, because just as I'm not a fan of erotica, I'm also not a fan of the opposite end of the spectrum: Christian and LDS fiction.  I'm not an atheist or anything like that, but if I want religious inspiration, I prefer to get it from sources other than my fiction novels.

9. The title is too similar to another well-known novel.
It's not that I avoid books with similar titles--it's just that most times, I honestly don't realize that they are two different books, thus causing me to not read one of them.  Do you know how long it took me to realize that Daughter of Smoke and Bone, and Shadow and Bone, are NOT THE SAME?

10. Mass-published fan fiction.
Just no.
In my search for a cutting meme about 50 Shades, I found this instead, and it was way better.
Readers: what words/topics are total book turn-offs for you?
 
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