Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Review of The Heroes of Olympus, Book Four: The House of Hades by Rick Riordan

TitleThe House of Hades
AuthorRick Riordan
Publication Date: Oct. 8, 2013
Source: Purchased myself

Quick Summary
The House of Hades continues to follow the story of Percy Jackson (and friends) as he tries to stop Gaea, the earth goddess, from rising and destroying the world as we know it. The previous book left Percy and Annabeth falling into Tartarus, home of the monsters, giants, Titans, and pretty much any enemy the heroes have ever faced before. Their friends above ground are trying to reach the Doors of Death to help Percy and Annabeth escape from Tartarus alive. This story is full of new friends, unexpected twists, and great character development. 

My Thoughts
Most of you don't know me well yet, but one of the first things people find out about me is that I'm a total nerd. I geek out about a great many things, one of which is mythology. I LOVE MYTHOLOGY! Needless to say, when Rick Riordan started publishing his Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, I was ecstatic! I fell in love his characters, his sense of humor, his modern twist on Greek Mythology, his voice, and the way he made his books accessible to younger kids. Up until now, I've pretty much worshiped the ground Riordan walks on. However, I am very sad to say that I don't think The Heroes of Olympus series has stood up to my (admittedly high) expectations. 

For starters, it is very hard to tell who this story belongs to. In previous books, we followed Percy through his adventures, seeing the story through his point of view. Riordan knows Percy's voice very well and uses it effectively. I would literally laugh out loud in public places reading his first series. (And yes, I got some strange looks!) But in The Heroes of Olympus series, Riordan tells the story from seven different points of view! It makes it hard to tell whose story you are actually reading, and I think Riordan's sense of humor and voice greatly suffered from it. He knows Percy well, but the other characters' voices come across flat, and the humor forced. 

I also had a problem with the length of this series. The original series was five books, but they were only a couple hundred pages each. This helped reach a lot of young adults that weren't big readers. It made the books accessible and kid-friendly. This second series is also five books, but they are over 500 pages each! While Riordan might be counting on his fan base to follow him, I think the length factor alone will cut out a lot of new readers and a lot of younger readers. The House of Hades is book four, and (though it kills me to say it about one of Riordan's books) I am kind of bored. It is so long that I've lost interest in the story. Sure, there are exciting moments that help pull me back in, but they are few and far between. It just has a sense of monotony. This story could have been told in the same amount of pages as his last one. 

Now, don't worry! There are some redeeming qualities about the book. One thing that is gained by lengthening the book and making it from multiple points of view is character development. In The House of Hades especially, there is a depth of character that we didn't see (with the exception of Percy) in the first series. Riordan has added some serious plot twists and hard sacrifices to mold and shape his characters, making them more dynamic. I don't want to spoil the big surprises, so I won't go into too much detail, but even some of the characters from the last series are shown in a new light. This, along with adding some unexpected allies and a small social commentary on some major topics of today, does help to pull this book up to an enjoyable level. And I am curious to see how Riordan will end it all in the fifth and final book of the series: The Blood of Olympus. 

Overall, I give this book a 3 out of 5 hearts. 
A few flaws, but worth reading. 

I geek out about mythology… What's your geek out niche? 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Hello There!

Hey everyone! 

Once again, it's been forever since you all have last seen a post from me. (I do have a big announcement to make in regards to that though, so stay tuned!) Anyways, for those of you who have been keeping tabs on my personal life, I've been working on finishing up the last semester of my MA in Literature while teaching composition. If you checked in last semester or are friends with me on Facebook, you know that I've spent an inordinate amount of time working on my Ph.D. applications over the last few months. The first part of my big news relates to that: I currently have two offers (at least--still waiting on a few schools) on the table for Ph.D. programs!!! Both programs are fully funded teaching assistantships with stipends, so I am beyond completely excited and stoked to have been selected from such a large pool of hardworking, highly qualified applicants. Getting into a Ph.D. program is hard. Getting into one with funding is even worse. For a long time, I didn't think I even had a shot at it (though from what I hear, most students feel similarly). It's such an honor and an absolute joy to have been given this opportunity. 

The second part of my big news deals with Mindful Musings. Because of graduate school and my teaching responsibilites, I haven't been able to be as active as I would have liked to be over the last few years, and I hate to just let my blog "sit" here with no new content and no new readers. So I'm happy to say that Mindful Musings is adding a new contributor! Amber, the gal joining us, is an old friend from high school, and I think you all are going to love her. With Amber joining me, I'll be able to open up book review requests and blog tours again, and I know she'll provide you all with some awesome content! And, of course, you'll still be seeing posts from me sprinkled in here and there as I find the time. 

I'm really excited about this new turn for the blog, and I hope you guys will give Amber as awesome of an experience as I've had! So, without further ado, here's Amber to briefly introduce herself! 


Just a quick intro: my name is Amber Sumner. I graduated from William Jewell College with BAs in English and Education. For the last year and a half, I have been teaching 8th grade English Language Arts. I just recently got married to the love of my life, and Natalie was one of my bridesmaids. Natalie and I have been good friends since we were in high school, sitting in the back of Mrs. Allen's AP Lit and Comp class discussing the finer points of Smallville - namely crazy plots twists, Lana's insane number of concussions, and Tom Welling's abs. It had been a little while since either of us had had any time to chat, so while catching up on life we got talking about her book blog and how much she had missed posting since being in grad school. And I thought to myself: Gee! That sounds like fun! So I casually mentioned that I would LOVE to help her review books, and sure enough, during Spring Break she trucked a massive box of books over to Panera and taught me how to go about blogging. 

I have always loved reading and writing, and Natalie has been gracious enough to grant me an avenue to explore that love through book blogging (thanks so much, friend!). My favorite genres are fantasy, sci-fi,  and mystery, but I also like a wide array of YA lit. 

I am currently reading The House of Hades by Rick Riordan and wondering what others are thinking of the series thus far, especially compared to his Percy Jackson and the Olympians series… Thoughts?

Monday, January 6, 2014

OhMyGod. It's a Post!

Hey guys!

(For those of you who want to skip the life update and go straight to the bookish stuff, check out the last paragraph).

Wow. I bet you'd thought you'd seen the last of me. No posts since July? Crazy. Then again, most of you know I'm currently in my last year of my Master's program, and unfortunately, keeping up with grad school and teaching has pretty much meant no time for book blogging (much less fun reading). Until two or three days ago, I hadn't read a "fun" book since my last blog post, which was six months ago. Yikes. That sounded even worse when I had to type it. Truth is, this semester has easily been the most challenging, stressful semester in my life. With my coursework, teaching two different classes (instead of two sections of the same class), writing my thesis proposal, and putting together my Ph.D. applications, I've averaged about 3-4 hours of sleep a night since August. Not kidding. To make things worse, my semester ended with the unexpected death of a friend, along with Christmas, and me being a bridesmaid in the wedding of another friend, all occurring within a week and a half of each other. 

I'm not trying to turn this into a pity party (though it definitely feels a little bit that way now) . . . I just want you guys to get a feel for what's been going on with me over the last few months. Because I didn't get to blog this semester. Not once.  Not even to check in. And that's okay, because grad school is important, and even though it sometimes feels like I will be in school forever, I won't be, and maybe life will eventually get a little less chaotic. I really do miss book blogging. I miss getting to interact with such a warmhearted community of book lovers on a regular basis. I miss keeping up on all the latest publications. Though, admittedly, blogging can be stressful at times, I miss the relaxation it offered--being able to share things I loved (or didn't) with people who cared. I miss getting up in the morning and getting to sit down with my cup of coffee and read through all of your wonderful posts. 

I realize that my longtime followers and book-loving friends will tell me not to worry about keeping up with the blog, because it's something that will be waiting for me when I finally have the time. And I know that at some point, the book blogging community will welcome me back with all the kindness and support they've shown me over the years. I guess I'm just having a moment of nostalgia and even a little bit of regret, having to give up something I enjoyed so much in order to pursue something else, which is also incredibly important to me.

Anyways, the serious part of this post is over, and now I want to focus on good things! Over the last week, I have gotten the chance to continue Ann Aguirre's fantastic Sirantha Jax series. I just finished the fifth book, Aftermath, last night. I've already ordered the final book in the series, Endgame, and I'm planning on finishing it this week before school starts again on Monday. Getting the chance to read Killbox and Aftermath has been the highlight of my winter break, both because Aguirre really is a kickass author, and because getting to read such thoroughly enjoyable books that I got to pick out to read for fun has given me some relief from the insanity.

This brings me to the question I've been wanting to ask you all: what were YOUR favorite reads of 2013 (or, if you've been on the ball, your favorite read so far of 2014)? They can be books that were published last year or ones that you just read last year, but I'd love to know your recommendations for some awesome reading. If you reviewed the book(s), leave me the links so I can check them out. And most of all, I wish you all the best in 2014. I hope I'll get to check in now and again, but if not, I'll see you when I see you! :)

Friday, July 19, 2013

It's Been Awhile...

Hey everyone! 

Wow! It's been just short of two months since my last post. I bet you're wondering (at least, those of you who care) where the heck I've been ALL SUMMER!!!  What happened to all of that excitement about finally having the chance to blog and read fun books? Wasn't I planning an active return to the book blogosphere this summer? 

Yes, yes, I was. But you know what they say about best-laid plans, and it seems as if I've fallen victim to my own tendency to believe that when I FINALLY get some time off, I can cram absolutely EVERYTHING I WANT TO DO and I mean like ALL THE THINGS into that time off. Oops. 

I know that I don't have to explain things to my regular readers . . . I'm sure you all have already realized by now that as I get deeper and deeper into my graduate studies I've pulled back more and more from blogging, especially as I've taken on more advanced responsibilities as an English instructor in the teaching assistant program as well. Degree papers, lesson planning, comprehensive exams, Ph.D applications, studying for the GRE (again) . . . grad school simply EATS my time, even when my classes aren't in session. 

Anyways, the main purpose of this post was to tell you guys this: I consider many of you in the book blogosphere to be real friends, even though not all of us have met face to face. And I would love to have a better way to keep in touch with you. While me reading your blogs is a great way to find out what's going on in your lives, it can be incredibly time-consuming, and as we've seen, I've not done so hot making everything fit together time-wise so far. I'm on Twitter on my blog handle every once in awhile, and you can always follow me there, but I've found that I don't get on nearly as often as I used to (the reasons behind that are pretty much the same as my lack of blogging). However, I am on (here's that dreaded word) Facebook relatively frequently. I use it personally to keep in touch with long-distance friends and family, but I also have to check it frequently for updates about work and to share information with my colleagues. 

I'm already friends with some of you on Facebook, but for those of you who aren't "friends" with me and would like to be, you can add me by searching for the e-mail n_monzyk_28 (at) hotmail (dot) com. If for some reason you decided to send me an actual e-mail, please use my blog's contact address, and not the one I just listed. The one above I've had since I was sixteen and I keep it as a "spam" catcher and for situations like these, where I want certain people to be able to look me up without having to post my "good" e-mail on the Internet. Crazy, right?

As I said almost a year ago, right before I started grad school, this post isn't a goodbye. Though I've only made a handful of posts on my blog over the last year, I still enjoy it and everything it brings to the table (both the books and the people)! I hope to return to it when I can here and there, and maybe, when I'm FINALLY out of school, I can post more like I used to. In the meantime though, I hope you all are having wonderful lives! Hugs!!!

On a different note, I don't know about you all, but I discovered today that I cannot type the phrase it's been awhile (the title of this post without getting the Staind song of the same name stuck in my head. Crap. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Armchair BEA 2013: Introductions

It's time for this year's Armchair BEA! For those of you who are unfamiliar with this event, you can find out all of the important information by visiting the Armchair BEA website. If you want a quick and dirty overview, I'd recommend checking out the FAQ page

Anyways, today is the day for introductions! If you decide to participate, don't forget to link up on Armchair BEA's website! Below, I've answered a few questions to help you get to know me better. If you're participating in this event as well, make sure to mention it so I can visit yours in return! 


Have you previously participated in Armchair BEA? What brought you back for another year? If you have not previously participated, what drew you to the event?

Yep! I've participated in Armchair BEA for the last couple of years. In fact, if you want to read even more about me, you can take a peek at my introduction post from last year by clicking here. I love this event because 1) it takes place in the summer so I usually have time to participate and 2) it's a fabulous way to interact with a bunch of other bloggers, new and old. The people behind Armchair BEA put a TON of work into this event, and it shows! I always have a lot of fun. 

What are you currently reading, or what is your favorite book you have read so far in 2013?

I'm one of those people who can't read just one book at a time. Along with reading the yet-to-be-published textbook that I'll be teaching my Writing II students in the fall, I'm reading the steampunk romance Heart of Iron by Bec McMaster and the final book in the post-apocalyptic zombie Newsflesh Trilogy, Blackout. (Images below are clickable and go to Goodreads). 

Blackout (Newsflesh Trilogy, #3)Heart of Iron (London Steampunk, #2)

Tell us one non-book-related thing that everyone reading your blog may not know about you.

Okay, this is still book-related, but it's not blog-related, so I'm going to go with it. My regular readers already know this, but for those of you who are new here, I'm a graduate student pursuing an MA in literature, specializing in the fields of children's literature and Post-1798 British literature. Some of my other academic interests include gender theory, popular culture, postcolonial theory, and visual rhetoric. As part of my graduate assistantship, I teach first-year composition and, starting next semester, I'll also be teaching Writing II. I've got a year left until graduation, after which, I hope to get my Ph.D!

Which is your favorite post that you have written that you want everyone to read?

Okay, this is a hard one. I'm not sure I personally have a favorite post, but I do have a couple that had really good discussions going on in the comments. The one I can think of off the top of my head is a post I did on blogging and image use about a year ago. There was also a discussion post I did on three star ratings awhile back that got a lot of good responses. As far as posts that I'd like everyone to read, well, since I'm just coming back off of a hiatus due to grad school, I'd love to have you all check out my "comeback" post I published last week and the guest post that steampunk romance author Bec McMaster did on my blog yesterday (where you can also win a copy of her book Kiss of Steel). 

What is your favorite part about the book blogging community?

I always feel like I can't answer this question without sounding cliche, but I still chose it anyways, because I think it's important. I love the book blogging community because it's supportive, it's innovative, it's caring and compassionate. Yes, we have our drama now and again, but the majority of the community is filled with a lot of positive people who are always willing to lend a hand when you need one (and talk books, of course)! I feel that, even though this is an Internet-based community as opposed to one established in "real life," a lot of book bloggers are very concerned with what happens to their friends and colleagues in real life. It's always been a great place for me to spend my free time, or to look for a pick-me-up after a rough day. And no matter how long I've been gone, the people of the book blogosphere always manage to welcome me back with open arms. 

Guest Post and Giveaway: Author Bec McMaster on the Appeal of Steampunk

Hey everyone! I'm happy to have on my blog today Bec McMaster, author of the steampunk romance Kiss of Steel that I read and reviewed last year. She's here to talk about the appeal of the steampunk genre and her new book Heart of Iron. In addition, if you stick around 'til the end of the post, you'll have the opportunity to win a copy of Kiss of Steel, the first book in Bec's London Steampunk series! So, without further ado, here's Bec!

Why does steampunk appeal to so many readers?
Steampunk. The very name conjures up thoughts of foggy, gas-lit streets, explorers snapping their goggles into place as they broach a foreign shore and the shadows of a passing dirigible rippling over the ground. So what is it?
It's a reimagining of the 19th century; instead of following the path history chose, steampunk is changing the course of the past and imagining that science chose a different route. All of the inventions that were only ever dreamed of by Victorian scientists (or even earlier), can be explored as if they existed at different points of time. As if someone, somewhere, managed to create what they could only dream of.
Picture Mary Shelley. For her, Frankenstein was a work where she looked to the future, and what could be possible in science. For us, writing or reading steampunk, is looking back and guessing what could have happened.
I love steampunk as a sub-genre because it takes the impossible and makes it possible. As a writer, the appeal for me is that I get to play in several genres that I like; an improbable mash-up of historical romance with paranormal and steampunk tones. My London Steampunk series is like Dracula meets the latest Sherlock Holmes movies.
For a reader? It's new. It's exciting. Amazing worlds can be created that are like nothing a reader has seen before. And it's so diverse that there is usually something for everyone.
I like to think of my own version of steampunk as historical romance with a paranormal twist and a good dollop of sci-fi. As such, it can appeal to readers of either genre, or those who simply like a rip-roaring adventure.
In Heart of Iron, the second book of my London Steampunk series, the world is still the same: comprised of blue bloods - those stricken by the craving virus and who live off blood - the aristocracy considers humans little better than cattle and hides behind gilded walls, protected from the hordes of humans by an army of metaljacket automatons.
But in Heart of Iron, my hero and heroine are challenging the status quo. For Lena Todd, whose only options are to become a blue blood's thrall - a blood-slave - or to become prey, life isn't fair. She wants to change the place of people like her, she just isn't sure how. And when she gets involved with the humanist cause vowing to take down London's elite, she finds she's in over her head.
For the humanists are plotting against the ruling Prince Consort and his blue blood court, and for them, the only way to fight the blue blood's automaton army is with technology of their own.
Enter Will Carver. The burly verwulfen ruffian is just as bound by his place in the world as Lena. When he realizes the woman he's always desired is in danger, he's not going to let anything stop him from saving her. Mechanical kraken, or not.
So, automatons, clockwork devices and a hero and heroine who put the 'steam' in steampunk... If any of that sounds interesting to you, you might just like steampunk romance.
Want to win a copy of Kiss of Steel, the first in my London Steampunk series? Simply tell me what invention you wish existed that could make your life easier? (US and Canada only)

For a sneak peek at the London Steampunk world, I'm offering an e-novella called Tarnished Knight (set after Kiss of Steel and before Heart of Iron) for free download for the month of May. See here for details.


In the mist-shrouded streets of London’s dreaded Whitechapel district, werewolves, vampires and a clockwork army are one step away from battle…


Lena Todd is the perfect spy. Nobody suspects the flirtatious debutante could be a rebel against London’s vicious elite—not even the ruthless Will Carver, the one man she can’t twist around her little finger.

Will Carver, is more than man, he’s a verwulfen and he wants nothing to do with the dangerous beauty who drives him to the very edge of control. But when he finds Lena in possession of a coded letter, he realizes she’s in a world of trouble. To protect her, he’ll have to seduce the truth from her before it’s too late.

“Deftly blends elements of steampunk and vampire romance with brilliantly successful results…darkly atmospheric and delectably sexy.”Booklist, starred review for KISS OF STEEL


Award-winning author Bec McMaster lives in a small town in Australia and grew up with her nose in a book. A member of RWA, she writes sexy, dark paranormals and steampunk romance. When not writing, reading, or poring over travel brochures, she loves spending time with her very own hero or daydreaming about new worlds. The third book in the London Steampunk series, My Lady Quicksilver will be in stores in October 2013. Read more about her at www.becmcmaster.com or follow her on Twitter @BecMcMaster.

To purchase Heart of Iron:

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Where I've Been and What I've Done for the Past Nine Months, or YAY!It's Summer!

Hey everyone! 

So it seems like it's been FOREVER since I've gotten the chance to talk to any of you (and it kind of HAS been forever . . . I guess I'm just feeling it more this time around)! Anyways, I'm happy to say that the semester is finally over for me, and summer has began! For those of you who've known me for awhile, you know that breaks from school (especially summer break) are the times when I have the chance to be more "present" around the book blogosphere, and I'm hoping to continue that tradition this summer. But before I talk about where things are going, I want to do a bit of a school year recap, for those of you who care about what I've been doing over the last nine months. (I did two other mini recaps in November and January, and you're welcome to check those out as well). 

School Recap

As of May 16th, I have officially made it through my first year of graduate school and my first year of teaching! I know this is going to sound cliche, but I really can't believe how fast everything went! I loved teaching so much that it led to me "officially" deciding that I'll be getting a Ph.D in English after I finish my Master's in English (that is, if I can get in) so that I can eventually pursue a career as a college professor. Big decision? You bet. Scary? Definitely. But it's also incredibly exciting.

Because I got a head start on my MA as an undergrad, thanks to senior permission, I'm only 12 hours away from completely my degree. As such, I decided not to take any summer courses this year, because I'm required to be enrolled in at least 6 hours per semester to keep my graduate assistantship, which allows me to teach. I also decided that instead of graduating early with my MA in a year or a year and a half, I'd spend the full two years in the program (I mean, it IS paid for) so I could come out with a solid two years of teaching experience to put on my CV. The great thing about this is that my course load this coming year will be much lighter than this past year, which means I'll (hopefully) have extra time to work on my degree papers, Ph.D applications, and comprehensive exams. 

So, other than taking classes and teaching them, what have I been up to? Well, in March, I presented at the Popular Culture Association Conference in Washington D.C. along with a few of my other colleagues. Our topic was one many of you would probably be interested in: whitewashing in young adult literature and media. You can check out the abstract here if you want to know more. I later presented my portion of the project at my own university's Graduate Interdisciplinary Conference.

This past semester, I also enrolled in a MOOC, or Massive Open Online Course (as if I didn't have enough schoolwork already)! The topic of the MOOC was Gender Through Comic Books, and it was a wonderfully interesting and fulfilling course. For those of you who are interested in free, educational experiences, MOOCs are fantastic! I was a little hesitant because this MOOC was my first, but I loved the experience, and I'm planning on enrolling in more MOOCs in the future! As a matter of fact, this MOOC inspired me to write my Critical Theory seminar paper on violence against women in superhero comics, so I got to branch out a bit and explore a side of literature that I hadn't done a lot with in the past.

What I've Read/Been Reading

I'm still working on Blackout, but the rest of these were finished over the past semester.

The Indigo Spell (Bloodlines, #3)StungClockwork Princess (The Infernal Devices, #3)
The Turn of the Screw: Authoritative Text, Contexts, Criticism (A Norton Critical Edition)The Walking Dead, Vol. 1: Days Gone ByeBatwoman, Vol. 1: Hydrology
Batman: The Killing JokeOliver TwistRachel Rising: The Shadow of Death (Rachel Rising, #1)
Teen Titans, Vol. 1: It's Our Right to FightCinder (Lunar Chronicles, #1)Blackout (Newsflesh Trilogy, #3)
Dance of Shadows (Dance of Shadows, #1)The Name of the Star (Shades of London, #1)The Art of Racing in the Rain

What I've Watched/Been Watching

With the exception of Hemlock Grove, I'm behind on ALL of these shows. 

Plans for the Summer

As you all already know, I am planning a return to blogging this summer. However, because of other commitments (weddings, graduations, birthdays, family vacations, studying for comps, lesson planning for the fall, putting together Ph.D applications, you get the picture), I'm not sure yet as to HOW active that return will be. My tentative goal for the moment is to shoot for a post or two a week at the beginning and see how that works out. I also have thousands of posts from other book blogs that are sitting in my feed reader, and I'd really like to catch up on them at some point. 

I'm also planning on incorporating some posts about comics and graphic novels into my summer blogging. I read a LOT of great material while taking the Gender Through Comic Books MOOC and while doing research for my paper, and I can't wait to share some of it with you! 

Anyways, I've missed you all, and I'm excited to get back in the game. Here's to a happy, healthy vacation, filled with lots of awesome people and awesome books! 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Book Feature and Giveaway: The Tale of Raw Head and Bloody Bones by Jack Wolf

Hey guys! 

So those of you who know me well know that I'm not much for featuring books on my blog that I haven't yet read. However, The Tale of Rawhead and Bloody Bones by Jack Wolf is one of those rare exceptions. When the book was pitched to me as part of a blog tour, I eagerly agreed because it sounded right up my alley. Originally, I was supposed to post my review along with a giveaway of the book today, but due to some ongoing medical circumstances (don't worry, I'm okay!), I was unable to finish the book in time. So, with the disclaimer that I have not yet gotten the chance to delve into The Tale of Rawhead and Bloody Bones, I'm still featuring it on my blog because it's a new release that I'm extremely excited about. Science? Madness? Superstition? Existentialism? All set in mid-eighteenth century Britain? What's not to be excited about? Okay, so I realize I'm letting my geek flag fly here, but The Tale of Rawhead and Bloody Bones is definitely a book I'm excited to read and share my thoughts on. But for now, you'll have to settle a peek at the synopsis and a chance to win your own copy! 

The Tale of Raw Head and Bloody Bones

An explosive and daring debut novel set during the Enlightenment that tells the tale of a promising young surgeon-in-training whose study of anatomy is deeply complicated by his uncontrollable sadistic tendencies.

Meet Tristan Hart, a brilliant young man of means. The year is 1751, and Mr Hart leaves his Berkshire home for London to lodge with his father's friend, the novelist and dramatist Henry Fielding, and study medicine at the great hospital of University College. It will be a momentous year for the cultured and intellectually ambitious Mr Hart, who, as well as being a student of Locke and Descartes and a promising young physician, is also, alas, a psychopath. His obsession is the nature of pain, and preventing it during medical procedures. His equally strong and far more unpredictable obsession is the nature of pain, and causing it. Desperate to understand his own deviant desires before they derail his career and drive him mad, Tristan sifts through his childhood memories, memories that are informed by dark superstitions about faeries and goblins and shape-shifting gypsies. Will the new tools of the age-reason and science and skepticism-be enough to save him?

Unexpectedly funny, profoundly imaginative, and with a strange love story at its heart, The Tale of Raw Head and Bloody Bones is a novel about the Enlightenment, the relationship between the mind and body, sex, madness, the nature of pain, and the existence of God.

Jack Wolf

For more information about this book or its author, you can visit the following links! 

Jack Wolf's website
The Tale of Raw Head and Bloody Bones on Goodreads

The following giveaway is U.S. only because of shipping costs. I apologize to my international readers. There will be more opportunities for you in the future! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, April 5, 2013

Review and Giveaway of Stung by Bethany Wiggins


Title: Stung     
Author: Bethany Wiggins
Publication Date: April 2nd, 2013
Publisher: Walker Children's
Source: Received for review

Back Cover

There is no cure for being stung.

Fiona doesn’t remember going to sleep. But when she opens her eyes, she discovers her entire world has been altered—her house is abandoned and broken, and the entire neighborhood is barren and dead. Even stranger is the tattoo on her right hand—a black oval with five marks on either side—that she doesn’t remember getting but somehow knows she must cover at any cost. She’s right.

Those bearing the tattoo have turned into mindless, violent beasts that roam the streets and sewers, preying upon the unbranded while a select few live protected inside a fortress-like wall, their lives devoted to rebuilding society and killing all who bear the mark.

Now Fiona has awakened branded, alone—and on the wrong side of the wall.

In a Sentence

Though Stung took place in an engrossing, unique, and creative post-apocalyptic world, the characters populating its pages seemed mediocre at best.

My Thoughts

When I was offered a chance to review Stung for this blog tour, I had to accept. As many of my frequent visitors know, I've been on a seldom-broken hiatus for the majority of this semester due to grad school, teaching, and some ongoing medical issues. In spite of this, I couldn't pass up the chance to look at a promising post-apocalyptic YA release, considering that post-apocalyptic literature is one of my favorite genres.

In some ways, I was really pleased with how Stung turned out. Wiggins took an idea that many of us are familiar with in modern times (the mysterious case of the disappearing bees),  and imagined what would happen to humankind in the future if this problem escalated. The result is the complete breakdown of society and government as we know it, and as fans of dystopian and post-apocalyptic lit. can probably guess, when safety and order go out the window, the rest of our collective sanity tends to go with it. 

Anyways, I really did enjoy the world-building. Where Stung fell flat for me was in its characters. Many of them seemed to only exist on one, or maybe two levels, and for those of you who know me well, I like my characters to be multifaceted--to be complex and well-developed. In Stung, I felt that the characters were kind of cookie-cutter. Other than the world that they lived in, the characters seemed like they could have been pulled from a number of other books that I've read in the genre.Another issue I had while reading Stung is that I felt as if the creative potential that existed within this broken, despotic world was sacrificed (or at least reduced) in order to throw a love story in the mix, and not an especially original love story at that.

Finally, I found myself being a little skeptical of some of the ways men were described as a result of the breakdown of society. In this new world, there are seven men alive for every one woman, so the continuing existence of humanity is at risk. However, the reason why women are so much more rare than men is never really explained, and it seems like, without having a steady source of womanly love at their beck and call, a large percentage of the male population turn into chauvinists and rapists. Here's just one quote that bothered me:

"But that's not the main problem."

"Then what is?"

"They know you're a girl."

I frown, confused.

"Most of them haven't set eyes on a woman in more than a year, Fo. Let alone a young, pretty woman." **

And that's just the description of the guys in the militia. Let's not even talk about the ones who exist outside the government (they're flat out described as rapists and murderers). Even the main male character, Bowen, is described as having some of these latent urges (though he vehemently struggles against them)

"No," he says. "You cannot wear that." 

I look down at the sundress. "What's wrong with it?"

He drags a hand over his weary face. "You look like a . . . woman. It's not safe." 

I think of the raiders and look back down at the dress. "When we leave, I'll change," I say. "But for now, it's comfortable. I feel like the old me." 

. . . "Fo, you're not safe from me. . . . Fo, I'm a man, and you're a beautiful woman. But you're also a Level Ten, and when I look at you, especially when you're dressed like this, I can't think straight, because even though my brain tells me you're the most dangerous thing I've ever encountered, my heart . . . my body--" **

Furthermore, Bowen, being the embodiment of virtuous manhood, develops a protector complex for Fiona that, wait for it, turns into love, true love. Fiona rarely shows the capacity (or even desire) to be the agent of her own life, and relies almost completely upon Bowen not only for her safety, but for food, water, and shelter as well. 

Don't get me wrong, I think that Wiggins displayed a lot of talent in the way she crafted the world of Stung. I flew through this book in a matter of hours despite my issues with the characterization and stereotypes mentioned above. After finishing the book though, I was left feeling unsatisfied. However, if Stung sounds like your kind of thing, don't let me discourage you. Plenty of other readers have really enjoyed it, as you can tell by reading other reviews on Goodreads

**Quotes taken from e-ARC and may not be the same as in final copy.**


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