Advertisements
Archive | 2017 Reads RSS feed for this section

The Bloody Chamber

29 Apr

51M-N0h8tLL._SX315_BO1,204,203,200_(PICK IT)

Author: Angela Carter

Genre: Fantasy

First Published: 1979

Page Count: 126

Type: Paperback

Film/ TV Adaptation: No

Rating: 4/5 Stars

 

The fairy tales you know retold in a sensual and sometimes horrifying way.

__________________Positives__________________

*Mix of Horror/Fantasy     *Unique Retellings

___________________Negatives_____________________

*Too Strange     *Some Stories Better than Others

“She herself is a haunted house. She does not possess herself; her ancestors sometimes come and peer out of the windows of her eyes and that is very frightening.” Vampires, Beauty and the Beast, Puss and Boots, and many other familiar fairy tales and legends are retold by Angela Carter in this collection of short stories. However, these retellings are very different from the tales as you know them. Violence, gore, sex, and the horrors of the supernatural add a layer of sensuality and terror to the fairy tales of our childhood.

While I love a good old romantic retelling of my favorite fairy tales, getting to read a few retellings that have more of a horror angle to them was a treat and a breath of fresh air. Stories like Beauty and the Beast have the basics of the original fairytale, but mostly Carter completely revamps the story into something totally new. And because these new versions are so dark and different, you really don’t know if there will be a happy ending this time around. Of all the short stories in this book my favorite is the first and the one that gives the book its title: The Bloody Chamber. I don’t know if it’s an original story by Carter or a retelling of a story but I wasn’t familiar with it. It reminded me a lot of Rebecca but it is definitely a different ending then that classic novel.

While I appreciated the strangeness of the retellings, some of the stories were beyond bizarre. At the close of the story, you would literally sit there and wonder what on earth you had just read. The events were either too over the top in its strangeness to be believable even in a fairytale or too over the top to the point that you wonder why that addition was necessary. And even though there are some great retellings in this book, not every one is going to be a hit with the reader. I think this is just a personal preference; for instance I’ve never been a huge fan of Puss and Boots so that story was one I wanted to get through quickly to move on to something new.

If you aren’t a horror fan, I’d probably leave this book on the shelf. For some it can be a bit too macabre or intimate to see their beloved fairy tales retold in this way. However, I loved the twisted spin Carter gives these classics and would highly recommend it if you can stand or even enjoy Tarantino-esque violence in your Little Red Riding Hood story.

 

 

Advertisements

The Heart’s Desire

26 Apr

Volume_4-The_Heart's_Desire(PICK IT)

Author: Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard, & Cliff Rathburn

Genre: Graphic Novel

First Published: 2009

Page Count: 136

Type: Paperback

Film/ TV Adaptation: Yes*

Rating: 5/5 Stars

Note: Volume 4 of The Walking Dead series

Even with the sturdy prison walls of the gang’s new sanctuary protecting them from the walkers, they find that danger might not just be limited to the undead.

__________________Positives__________________

*Differs from TV Show     *More Character Driven

___________________Negatives_____________________

*None

“In a world ruled by the dead, we are forced to finally start living.” After a struggle to make their new pit stop safe, the gang has started making the prison their home. But with the addition of a new arrival and building tension over events from the past, the group finds themselves again bracing for battle. However, this time it is a fight between members of their own community and not against the undead.

Once again I was riveted by this volume of the graphic novels because these events were never present in the TV show. We are introduced to a new character, Michonne, who happens to be one of my favorites from the show. However, the entrance of her character in the comics was way off base of how Michonne would act in the show. On the one hand, I hated her; she is just complete trash in this volume. But on the other hand, it made for interesting reading. This volume, though packed with action, is more character driven then the previous ones. The characters are confronting their actions and assessing their relationships which is giving the story more depth than just a zombie battle comic.

Because I never knew what to expect in this volume and I was so thrown aback by Michonne’s personality, I didn’t have anything that I disliked about volume four. While I prefer the Michonne in the show, this preference for the TV show characters seems to be a trend for me when comparing the comic book characters with the ones in the TV show. It’s nice to read something different so it doesn’t feel like a re-tread of what I’ve already watched on TV. With all the tension building in the prison and from what I know about where things go on the show, I can’t wait to see what volume five has in store.

*TV Adaptation: (The Walking Dead Starring Andrew Lincoln 2010-Present)

Good Strategy Bad Strategy

25 Apr

good-strategy-bad-strategy-book-cover(PICK IT)

Author: Richard P. Rumelt

Genre: Nonfiction

First Published: 2011

Page Count: 298

Type: Hardcover

Film/ TV Adaptation: No

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Rumelt uses in-depth, detailed examples without mincing words to teach the reader about good and bad strategy.

__________________Positives__________________

*Blunt Honesty     *Interesting Case Studies

___________________Negatives_____________________

*Dry Spots

“A hallmark of true expertise and insight is making a complex subject understandable. A hallmark of mediocrity and bad strategy is unnecessary complexity—a flurry of fluff masking an absence of substance. FAILURE.” Richard Rumelt knows good strategy when he sees it and he knows bad strategy even better. After years working in different industries and studying various real world cases, Rumelt is revealing what makes a good strategy so great and what you can do to avoid bad strategies.

What I liked about this author right off the bat was his brutally honest voice. At some moments Good Strategy Bad Strategy almost felt like Rumelt’s personal burn book where he finally found his platform to say “I told you so” to all the people who didn’t follow his advice on strategy. However, what could have come across as whining and bashing of someone’s judgement actually gave the book a unique voice that felt more relatable then other business books. His case studies and examples used to prove his points more than make you respect the man and where he is coming from. I also liked that the real world examples were detailed enough that they had a beginning, middle, and end, and weren’t just quick mentions where you didn’t know how the case actually played out.

As with any book in the business section, this one had its dry points. I found my mind drifting when the talk on strategy got too technical or I wasn’t particularly interested in the current case study being presented. That being said, this happened less than usual in this book then with other business books I’ve read. I felt the author does a good job of balancing between educating us on strategy and providing interesting world examples to keep the book engaging.

I’ve read two strategy books back to back now and I definitely recommend this one over the last. It is more relatable and entertaining; these two factors will help make the concepts in the book stick because the reading experience is more enjoyable. With so many real world examples presented in this book, you also can’t help but believe in what the author is saying. This is an approachable strategy book for readers of any level looking for some insight on the subject.

 

The Strategist

10 Apr

cover-pic(PICK IT)

Author: Cynthia A. Montgomery

Genre: Self-Help

First Published: 2012

Page Count: 148

Type: Hardcover

Film/ TV Adaptation: No

Rating: 3/5 Stars

 

Montgomery utilizes real world cases to teach people how to become a strategist for their business.

__________________Positives__________________

*Fascinating Case Studies

___________________Negatives_____________________

*Dry to Read at Times

“You’re about to get a revisionist view of strategy. It’s not that what you’ve learned is incorrect. It’s that its incomplete.” Cynthia Montgomery has worked with the EOP (Entrepreneur, Owner, President) program for Harvard where she has taught strategy. This book tries to take what she has taught to the students over the years that she has worked with on the EOP program and put it down in a book that can be accessed by anyone who wants to learn more about becoming a strategist. The author uses real life cases of famous businesses as examples to teach readers about the difference a good strategy can make.

The most interesting parts of this book are the case studies. I was pretty familiar with the story of Apple (who isn’t at this point?) but the cases on Ikea, Gucci, and Ink for Less, among others, were business stories I was less familiar with. I loved reading about each case and all of their stories are vastly different from each other. The cases worked well with the points the author was trying to make but they also added interest to the book. I’m definitely going to look into reading more about the Gucci and Ikea cases now that Montgomery’s summaries have piqued my interest.

Without the case studies, the book is very dry to read at times. It comes across like a text-book which can be difficult to keep focus on. When the author weaves her points in with the case stories, the book is easy to follow and enjoyable to read. Otherwise, her lengthy writings on strategy are a bit too in-depth for the casual reader.

The book is very short and the case studies are so interesting that if you have to desire to pick up this book, I’d say go for it. However, it can be very dull at times when the author is essentially lecturing on the subject of strategy. If you have a lot of knowledge on the subject, this book might be a good way to learn more about strategy. However, as a casual reader of business literature, there might be more interesting books available.

 

 

Winning

10 Apr

1760745(PICK IT)

Author: Jack Welch

Genre: Biography

First Published: 2005

Page Count: 480

Type: Paperback

Film/ TV Adaptation: No

Rating: 4/5 Stars

 

Winning is the perfect book for anyone looking to take the initial plunge into the area of literature related to business.

__________________Positives__________________

*Easy to Understand     *Interesting Anecdotes

___________________Negatives_____________________

*Disagree with Some Sections

“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” Jack Welch was the CEO of General Electric and has forty years under his belt with the company. Over the years, Welch has been asked numerous business related questions because of his successful management style and business know-how. Winning brings together the most important questions and gives the reader a great business book that goes over everything from work-life balance to crisis management.

I wish when I had started reading books about business I had started with this book. It is incredibly easy to understand which means that it will be easier to recall Welch’s advice in the future. The author’s voice is very relatable and his examples and advice are straight forward and concise. The book also doesn’t come off like a text-book but more of a casual Q&A with the author which keeps it interesting. Welch’s anecdotal stories are interesting and perfect examples to prove each point of the chapter.

This book is a quick read because the stories and advice are so easy to absorb. However, in some instances I found that I didn’t agree with all of his advice, even though these instances were few and far between. A lot of the advice that I was at odds with seemed to be a product of the fact that Welch and I are from two different generations of the American work force. He is very much of the mind-set that your entire life should only revolve around work and, as a result, he wasn’t very sympathetic to the plight of working mother’s. He definitely acknowledges that balancing the pressures of work and life outside of work are a challenge, but I got the feeling he looked at these people who don’t completely dedicate themselves to work because they have kids, etc, as second class workers who are less likely to rise up except in certain cases. With the cost of living being so high in many places, most families need two incomes to survive which means work-life balance and how people work is changing dramatically from when he used to work for GE. Some of his thinking might already be dated but only the future will tell.

I highly suggests beginners in the world of business literature pick up this book first. It isn’t dry like most business books can come across and it covers a wide range of topics. Each chapter is thorough and Welch gives clear direction about how to take on each topic he presents in the book. I’ll definitely have to look into his other books, because he seems to have a wealth of knowledge that go beyond what can be captured in one book.

 

The Star-Touched Queen

31 Mar

TheStarTouchedQueen(PICK IT)

Author: Roshani Chokshi

Genre: Fantasy YA

First Published: 2016

Page Count: 339

Type: Hardcover

Film/ TV Adaptation: No

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Note: Book 1 of The Star-Touched Queen series

An exotic fairytale that is a feast for the senses and avid readers of fantasy.

__________________Positives__________________

*Indian Mythology

___________________Negatives_____________________

*Slow Beginning     *Over-Embellished Writing

“I know your soul. Everything else is just an ornament.” Maya has been shunned by her father’s kingdom since her birth because of a horoscope that predicts her marriage will be connected to death and destruction. When the prospect of a political marriage looms in her future, Maya finds herself married to the handsome, mysterious Amar and the queen of the strange kingdom of Akaran. Her husband and her new home have many secrets to reveal to her, and she soon finds herself caught up in a battle that has spanned decades and worlds beyond the human one she thought she knew.

This book was such a treat because it is not only a work of fantasy or even a fairytale, but it also deals in Indian mythology. This is an area I’m not very knowledgable about so it was exciting to discover so many new stories and mythical figures. You never feel lost when new terms or concepts are introduced to you that are a part of Indian mythology because there is a small glossary and the author explains them in the text. Reading this book always felt like I was learning something different which kept it from being predictable.

The author’s descriptive style of writing was mostly a benefit to the reader because it made the story come alive and feel very rich and exotic. However, sometimes it slowed the story as well. In certain areas of the book, I just wanted to get to the action of the event that was taking place and the over-embellishment of the words just got in my way. I also found the beginning very slow and wondered if I would even take to this book at all. You don’t really have a clue what’s happening and not much does happen until Maya gets to Akaran.

Once the story picked up from the initial chapters, it is really exciting and varied in the obstacles Maya faces, both human and mythical. This first dip in the world of Indian mythology was fascinating and I’d love to read more gorgeously written books like this one. The fairy tales I’m used to are old favorites of mine but stories like The Star-Touched Queen bring a refreshing look at mythology and legends. I can’t wait to pick up book two!

 

 

Fifty Shades Darker

19 Mar

FiftyShadesDarker(PICK IT)

Author: E.L. James

Genre: Romance

First Published: 2011

Page Count: 532

Type: Paperback

Film/ TV Adaptation: Yes*

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Note: Book 2 of the Fifty Shades series

Book two of the Fifty Shades series is a complete 360 from book one in that it is actually enjoyable to read.

__________________Positives__________________

*Less Corny     *Exciting Storyline

___________________Negatives_____________________

*Too Many “Adult” Scenes

“’I don’t know whether to worship at your feet or spank the living shit out of you.’” Even though entrepreneur and millionaire Christian Grey and Seattle’s everyday girl Anastasia Steele have broken off their relationship, they find it nearly impossible to be apart from each other. However, a second shot at a relationship for the two proves to be more difficult than Ana imaged. She has a budding career to focus on, but the demons of Grey’s dark past will make her question the man she loves and whether being with him might be damaging for her own life.

The fact that I’m even singing the praises of this book is a shock to my system. If you’ve read my review of the first book, you know I absolutely couldn’t stand it. But the second movie was out in theaters and a few years had gone by since reading the first, so I’d somehow convinced myself to give book two a try. I’m utterly flabbergasted that a story could improve as much as it did in this book. Things like Ana Steele’s “inner goddess” were less bothersome to me and she didn’t come off as the complete idiot that she seemed to be in the first. But the greatest improvement and the reason I enjoyed it so much was because the story was actually interesting this go around. It is of course about Grey and Steele’s relationship but there are also a lot of challenges that arise outside of what goes on in their relationship that drives the story. I’d almost say because of the nature of the events in this book, it almost felt like a romantic thriller at some points.

I realize the reason that I disliked this book is pretty ridiculous considering this is Fifty Shades. Its main draw or claim to fame is its very adult scenes of intimacy between the main characters. I’m also not a prude, but sheesh there were just way too many of these scenes. There were so many of these scenes, in fact, that they all got pretty predictable. I mean you can only write a sex scene so many ways. Not only were the scenes starting to all sound the same, but they started to feel ridiculous. It was like Ana can’t get through a conversation, eat a piece of food, or take a gosh darn breath of fresh air without Christian wanting to take her to bed.

Now that I’m two books down I guess I might as well see how this series ends by picking up book three. Hopefully E.L. James gets more creative with the never-ending  intimate scenes or I’m going to have to eye roll my way through tons of pages in this book just to find out how the story ends for Grey and Steele. I hope in book three we see just as much action as we got in book two, but with the way Fifty Shades Darker ends, I think the future looks promising.

* Film Adaptation: (Starring Dakota Johnson 2017)

The Reflections of Queen Snow White

11 Mar

18780192(PICK IT)

Author: David Meredith

Genre: Fantasy

First Published: 2017

Page Count: 123

Type: Paperback

Film/ TV Adaptation: No

Rating: 3/5 Stars

A surprising retelling of Snow White that will probably upturn any ideas you had about Snow White’s life after she and her prince rode off into the sunset.

__________________Positives__________________

*Interesting Retelling/ Sequel Combo

___________________Negatives_____________________

*Too Conflicting

“What was there to tie her to this miserable, disappointing world any longer?” It should be one of the happiest times in Queen Snow White’s life; it is the eve of her only child Raven’s wedding. However, the queen is still trapped in a hopeless, mournful state even though her beloved husband King Charming has been dead for over a year.With the unlikely help of her stepmother’s beloved magic mirror, Snow White might have stumbled upon the key to freeing herself from her suffocating grief so that she might be able to live her life again.

At first I was excited to read a Snow White fairytale retelling and then I was bummed to learn that her prince is dead in the book. But what is different about this book is it is part retelling and part sequel. Through some magic, Snow White revisits her abusive beginnings under her stepmother and also her life after she says “I do” to her prince. We get to see the original Snow White tale told a slightly different way and we also get to learn about her life after the original story finished. Therefore, you get to see plenty of the old characters you’d expect including the prince, the wicked stepmother, and the seven dwarves.

While I found the story really interesting and unexpected, I ultimately felt it conflicted too much with the original version I know and love. Some of the abuse Snow White endures both before and after her “happily ever after” are extremely harsh and in one instance nearly unbelievable. For all the tv shows and films I’ve watched or books I’ve read about royal court life, I could not imagine any subject treating their queen the way she is treated in one of the scenes or even having the courage to be so bold in their actions. While they make for interesting scenes, I just could not connect this retelling with the original tale. It felt too disconnected from how I imagined Snow White’s life to be and who she is as a person.

I love watching and reading retellings of fairy tales because it’s just interesting to see another person’s take on a subject. Even if this story doesn’t vibe with my view of Snow White’s happily ever after, I still enjoyed reading it and seeing this version of the story. At the end of the day it does capture the two most important aspects from the original story: that Snow White and her Prince Charming found true love and that she was able to overcome great adversity to find her happy ending.

*I received a free copy of this book for this review from the author.

Devil’s Knot

5 Mar

devilsknot(PICK IT)

Author: Mara Leveritt

Genre: Biography

First Published: 2002

Page Count: 351

Type: Paperback

Film/ TV Adaptation: Yes*

Rating: 5/5 Stars

A story with so many twists and turns and the most shocking part about it is that it’s all true.

__________________Positives__________________

*Timeline of Events     *Level of Detail     *Shocking True Story

___________________Negatives_____________________

*None

“Children don’t write their own tragedies. That is the work of adults.” In 1993, three eight year old boys went missing. Their naked, hog-tied bodies would be discovered the following day which would unleash one of the most peculiar criminal cases in American history. In the following months, three local teens became prime suspects and it isn’t long before the police begin to assert the murders were related to satanic rituals performed by said teens. But are these young adults really devil worshipping killers or are the police looking for an easy target to pin the murders on to close the case?

I had stumbled upon the movie Devil’s Knot on Netflix and became utterly engrossed with the case. I wanted to pick up this book but was weary it’d just cover everything I’d already watched. Thank goodness I bought the book anyway because my gut was completely wrong. The book goes into much more detail than the film and leaves no stone unturned. Leveritt perfectly outlines the events and even after the court room drama is concluded, she gives the readers valuable insight into where all the main players in the story are now. But no matter how good a writer Leveritt is, the punch to this book is the incredible story. Your blood will boil. It will boil for the eight year old boys that were savagely murdered, it will boil for the three teens suspected for their deaths with zero evidence against them, and it will boil for the people who should have been considered suspects from day one. The author often compares the trials against the teens to the Salem Witch Trials. It’s a powerful comparison and all the more frightening to think about because she’s right and this could still happen in modern America.

This is one of the best nonfiction books I’ve ever read because it keeps coming at you with new revelations and twists in the case that keep you turning pages. Watching the movie of the same name didn’t give me a clear feeling about the case either way, but reading this book did. It gives a clear outline of the case from start to finish, but it does also take a side on the argument about whether or not the teens were innocent. Reading the book and everything Leveritt presents to us, I can’t help but agree that it seems that they were wrongly accused. You’ll have to read this book, see a few of the films, and maybe read a few other books to decide for yourself, but I’d definitely be interested in learning more about this case or seeing other sides to it – even with my mind pretty much made up.

* Film Adaptation: (Devil’s Knot Starring Colin Firth 2013), (Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills 1996), (Paradise Lost: Revelations 2000), (Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory 2011)

Safety Behind Bars

19 Feb

walkingdead(PICK IT)

Author: Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard, & Cliff Rathburn

Genre: Graphic Novel

First Published: 2014

Page Count: 136

Type: Paperback

Film/ TV Adaptation: Yes*

Rating: 5/5 Stars

Note: Volume 3 of The Walking Dead series

The gang believes they have found a safe haven in an abandoned prison, but this installment in the series keeps the drama and action at full speed for one of the most entertaining issues yet.

__________________Positives__________________

*Nonstop Action     *Differs from TV Show

___________________Negatives_____________________

*None

“We’re all going to die. We have to get used to that. We have to be OKAY with that — we have to expect it, welcome it.” An abandoned prison that is overrun by the dead seems like the perfect place for Rick and his group to turn into a more permanent home. However, the dead are not the only threat to the living as the group is tested mentally and physically to try to hold their own in this hostile new world.

This has been my favorite issue of The Walking Dead to read so far and that is mostly because it is so different from the TV show that I had no idea what was going to go down next. In the TV series, Rick and the gang wind up at a prison which becomes their home, but that is where the similarities end with this installment of the graphic novels. There are so many different challenges the group faces and only half of it has to do with what they find in the prison. I couldn’t believe everything that happened to the characters in so few pages which made it feel like the most action packed book yet.

The ending is such a great cliff hanger so I can’t wait to see how Rick is going to get everyone out of their current mess. Just when we thought they might catch a break with the protection of the prison as their home, the group is hit with even more tragedy. Clearly being an avid viewer of the show doesn’t mean I have a firm grasp on what is in store in the graphic novels. There is so much more to come in this series, and I can’t wait to grab the next copy.

*TV Adaptation: (The Walking Dead Starring Andrew Lincoln 2010-Present)