Friday, May 29, 2015

In The House of Leviathan by B.D. Bruns

"Upon earth there is not his like, who is made without fear. He beholdeth all high things: he is a king over all the children of pride." (Job 41: 33-34, KJV)
Those two verses are the end of a chapter dedicated to describing the Leviathan, a humongous sea-monster described in the Bible. If you're a fan of Disney, you might remember it from Atlantis: The Lost Empire. My bro might know it from Ninjago: Masters of Spinjitsu. What it actually is, is debated, but for a very long time, it's been seen as a demon.

In The House of Leviathan, as you can guess, is about evil and demons. It follows Giuseppe, after he sees the devil appear at his family's paper mill one night. After that, people start dying, and strange signs come from the sea. In order to protect his sister, Giuseppe is going to have to overcome a lot of challenges.

Frankly speaking, this book pulled me in. I started reading it on the train, and when I looked up, I finished about half the book (don't worry, I got off at the right stop). Considering that I was in a reading slump that ended the day before I started the book, I was pretty amazed. I haven't been drawn into a story for a few weeks, and I've missed that.

The descriptions in the book were fantastic, and made me feel like I was actually in 19th century Italy. The village of Amalfi came to life for me, along with its characters. Speaking of characters, the main characters would be (as I see it), Giuseppe, his sister Carmelina and Lucio, the guy that loves her. Supporting characters were Marie, Lucio's sister, Grapaldi, the old man who has worked for them since forever, and Milani, the old priest. And a few others. I can say that I liked almost all of them (except for one, and if you know who, you'd know why), and thought they were all well-written characters. If it weren't for the fact that this book is basically dark and gothic, I'd want to spend some time at Amalfi (maybe before all this started?)

I may have gotten this book as part of a blog tour, but I am not lying when I say I loved it. It has beautifully written descriptions, a haunting story and wonderful characters. It was an awesome book to read coming out of my reading slump.

Disclaimer: I got a free copy of this book from the publisher as part of a blog tour in exchange for a free and honest review.

About the Author

Adventurer B.D. Bruns has traveled to over 50 countries to gather material for his bestselling books. He’s won 19 national and international book awards, including three national Book of the Year awards. Bruns’ first fiction book, The Gothic Shift (2014) won the International Book Awards Best Short Story Collection. He also contributes to Yahoo Travel, BBC, CNN, The Daily Beast, and The Travel Channel.

Bruns’ travel adventures span from entering the Pyramids of Giza and swimming in the Panama Canal to climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro and touring Torture Museums in Estonia. He has attended ceremonies from the descendants of cannibals in the South Pacific and has been consulted by a ghost tour in Malta. After residing in Dracula’s hometown for several years, Bruns moved to Las Vegas with his Romanian wife, where they live with two cats, Julius and Caesar.

For more information, please visit or connect with Bruns on:


Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest by Melanie Dickerson

How can you mix Robin Hood and Swan Lake together? Well, have your protagonist be named Odette, and when the sun falls, she transforms from a demure, wealthy maiden into an experienced archer who tries to do as Robin Hood did. That, in essence, is The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest.

And since Swan Lake is a romance, there's one in the book too. Only the "prince" in this case isn't really a prince, but the forester of the Margrave, who is tasked with catching the poacher - who happens to be Odette. Meanwhile, the rich handsome guy pursuing Odette is obnoxious, and in a surprise twist for me, turned out to have a bigger role in the story than I expected.

I thought the dilemma in the story was interesting. We know that poaching is wrong. And since there's a blackmarket selling the poached meat (which Odette doesn't know about, the Jorgen, the forester, does), it's obviously not going to the poor. But, the 'Robin Hood' figure, Odette thinks it is, so let's pretend it is going to the poor, and wonder. So, is she wrong, or is she right? Is it ok to break human laws if it fulfils God's command to feed the widow and the orphan? Who is the one in the right, Jorgen, who's trying to do his job and catch the poacher, or Odette, who's trying to feed the hungry that no one seems to care for?

So far, interesting and well-written stuff. This book would have been perfect if not for one thing. Possible spoilers here, though I shall try to be as vague as possible. Throughout most of the book, Odette is the high class one, and Jorgen is lower class. But by the end of the book, their positions are reversed, and Jorgen becomes her "knight in shining armour", so to speak. Considering that Odette is a strong, capable protagonist, I'm a bit disappointed that she had to be rescued instead of being the one doing the rescuing.

Overall, I liked the book. While I would have preferred a different ending, it was a happily ever after ending, and that's not too bad. I liked the characters and how the two stories blended in together, although perhaps a bit more of the Robin Hood element would have been more exciting.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a free and honest review.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Teaser Tuesday - How to be Normal by Guy Browning

Hey everyone! So, I've got a bunch of books to read for my class, but I'm guessing no one wants to see a Japanese teaser about the third industrial revolution.

So instead, I'm sharing a book that I found on Scribd and read a few pages of in the train. It's the latest book by Guy Browning, and considering that I loved his previous two books (I love his sense of humour!), I'm super excited about the fact that he's writing more of this!

So, from How to Be Normal:
"One of the reasons Americans can seem overly jolly is because they all have good teeth and don't mind displaying them. British teeth have been rotten for centuries and, as a smile was often like lifting a drain cover, we developed a stiff upper lip instead." 

I don't know about you, but I chuckled at this teaser (The column is called "How to Smile")

What is your teaser?

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of A Daily Rhythm. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
  • Grab your current read 
  • Open to a random page 
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page 
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!) 
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Monday, May 25, 2015

The Killer of Little Shepherds by Douglas Starr

So lately, I've been in a bit of reading slump. One of my seminars has monthly book reports (multiple books), and reading three Japanese books in three days basically killed all my drive I had to read. Really. All I was reading, for a time, were comics (thankfully, there's Scribd). It wasn't until I picked up this book that the reading slump was broken, and I managed to finish the book (in about two days, so I'm closer to form).

This book has two components: One follows the case of Joseph Vacher, a serial killer akin to Jack the Ripper (I believe he's called the French Ripper). The other follows Dr. Alexandre Lacassagne and his colleagues, detailing how the created the field known as forensic science. The two characters don't actually meet until near the end of the book, but their stories are told simultaneously. So you have alternating chapters, one about a criminal, and one about a crime-fighter. It could have been jarring, but I didn't really mind. In fact, the author managed to link the two stories by showing how the new methods were or were not used.

Towards the end of the book, it moves away from the story of forensics into the story of the insanity plea. Vacher tried to convince the court that he was insane at the time of the murders, and Dr. Lacassagne tried to do the opposite. Personally, I don't believe Vacher was insane. I think he was a person who, after being jilted and without a job, gave in to the voice of evil and started killing. I don't think he was insane in the sense that he did not know he was committing a crime and thus not legally responsible.

Another aspect of the book I thought interesting was when it explored the lives of those who were falsely accused of being killers. We might think that the internet age is the age that never forgets, but that's not true. Many of the people falsely accused had their reputations ruined for good, and they had to move away for face mob justice. Even the sentencing of Vacher didn't change things, and the families of some victims insisted that this other guy was the real killer.

This is contradictory, but I thought the book was both morbid and hopeful. It's morbid because, hey, it's a story about a serial killer who struck at random and killed many innocents. How much sunshine and rainbows can you put into a story like that? But, it's hopeful because it showed the birth of forensic science, and that there are people in this world who will fight against the monsters.