On my To Be Reviewed Stack!

On My To Be Reviewed Pile!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Book Review: Blue Asylum by Kathy Hepinstall

Title: Blue Asylum
Author: Kathy Hepinstall
Publication Date: April 10, 2012

Book Description
Amid the mayhem of the Civil War, Virginia plantation wife Iris Dunleavy is put on trial and convicted of madness. It is the only reasonable explanation the court can see for her willful behavior, so she is sent away to Sanibel Asylum to be restored to a good, compliant woman. Iris knows, though, that her husband is the true criminal; she is no lunatic, only guilty of disagreeing with him on notions of justice, cruelty, and property.

On this remote Florida island, cut off by swamps and seas and military blockades, Iris meets a wonderful collection of residents--some seemingly sane, some wrongly convinced they are crazy, some charmingly odd, some dangerously unstable. Which of these is Ambrose Weller, the war-haunted Confederate soldier whose memories terrorize him into wild fits that can only be calmed by the color blue, but whose gentleness and dark eyes beckon to Iris.

The institution calls itself modern, but Iris is skeptical of its methods, particularly the dreaded "water treatment." She must escape, but she has found new hope and love with Ambrose. Can she take him with her? If they make it out, will the war have left anything for them to make a life from, back home.

Review: 4 out of 5 stars

I became interested in the book during one of the many blog hops I participate in.  A big portion of the draw of this book, for me, was the institutional setting.  And the appealing, lofty view of finding love in an asylum.

I read this book in a weekend.  It was so fast-paced, and interesting, that it drew me in, and I wound up walking around my house with the kindle attached to me. The read went so fast, that at one point I realized that the book was half over, and there were still so many questions to be answered, and that I might be disappointed with the outcome.

The story, however, is so very well written.  Explaining the monotony of life in an asylum, the injustices that put people there, as well as the treatment of people in asylums by hardened, uncaring staff.  While learning the backstory of every character in the book, the author only eeks out Ambrose's story bit by bit.    Many times I thought, this couldn't have been the reason he ended up in an asylum, only to learn a bit more and say the same thing again, with the same result.

Events in the book seemed to lead up to a climatic point, only to fizzle out in completion.  The escape part of the story was sort of a letdown after everything that had previously happened. 

What happened after the escape seemed a bit forced.  As I said, there was so much back story that when it got to the escape part, there wasn't any book left.

I did find that in the end, Ambrose's story was told well.  We finally discovered what had damaged his mind to the point of being sent to an institution in the first place, and his character and reactions of a "free man" were no less than one would escape from such a gentle soul as Ambrose.

I had a harder time identifying, even liking the main character of the story, Iris.  I got the injustice of it all, and the unfairness, and how the entire situation must have been maddening to her.  There was just something in the character that I did not like.  Maybe it was everyone falling in love with her, or that she was just so terribly wronged that it made her hardened,, but I just had a hard time liking her.

I'm trying not to give away the story, as I do believe the best part of the story is after they escape from the asylum.  Maybe because the end of the novel had her recreating a scene from Wizard of Oz, which I felt was so cliche and not a fitting ending to the story told.

This was a wonderful book that I will most likely read again and again, probably with a more keener eye than before because I know the end, it might help me like the heroine a bit more, or understand character's behaviors better.

Disclosure:  I received this book as a prize from Blood, Sweat, and Books.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

When did the shift happen?

Yesterday, while grocery shopping, I ran into a friend of mine at the local Wal-Mart.  He's worked there for well over 8 years, and used to work with my husband for awhile.  He's watched me get pregnant, have the boys and watch the boys grow up over the years.

Somehow we started talking about the website "People of Walmart," and I had joked that once I stalked this woman around the store trying to get a picture of her to send into the website.  It was then I realized the huge shift that society, and even myself, has taken in the last 10 years.

Before the boys were born, I was known to go grocery shopping at 2AM just because there were no crowds and I could get in and out quickly.  While there, I'd see people wandering in in their pajamas and slippers and a jacket on.  I would roll my eyes and think, "Who the hell goes out in public dressed like that?!"  It's also where the true hilarity of the picture floating around on the web where the woman was being interviewed and said she loved Walmart because she didn't have to get all dressed up to go there hits home.

I live 5 minutes from Walmart.  Right behind it. I could walk there, if I believed in walking. :)  

Most mornings, I'm so busy getting the boys up and dressed, lunches packed, arguing over turning DS' off and getting a book and getting out the door to go to the bus that I don't even bother getting dressed.  I just put on a jacket and go to the bus stop.  Hey, don't judge me.

And some mornings, after I drop the boys off, I find myself wandering into Walmart to pick up water, medicine, something the boys need, in my jammies.  At 8am, usually everyone is all dressed up for work, but there are a few people in jammies with me.

When did the shift happen?  When did we as a society decide it's okay to go out in public in our pajamas?  When did I decide it was okay to wander around in my pajamas?

Is it that we just don't care what people think of us anymore?  Is it that we've gotten older, so we don't care what teenagers think of us anymore?  Is it that we just don't expect much from people anymore?

It's generational, but it's more than that.  My great aunt never leaves the house unless she's nicely dressed, has her hair done, makeup on, perfume on.  I see her in the store, and I feel like a slob.  But I'm not so sure it's the 70+ group has more respect for themselves than we do, I think it's society as a whole.  

Back when my grandmother and great-aunt were growing up, they never left the house without being "done up." They dressed up for church, they never wore clothes with holes in them, they bought their grandchildren pretty dresses for church on Easter Morning.

Now we have people who wear holey jeans to church on Sunday, who think a pair of dockers and a polo shirt are suitable wedding guest attire, and people (like me) who wander into Walmart in their pajamas at all times of day.

What do you think?  Is this change a generational or a societal shift?

Sunday, January 6, 2013

2013 TBR PILE Reading Challenge

This year I've updated my GoodReads ticker and really hope to read about 30-35 books this year.  To sort of keep me motivated, since I just petered out midway through the year, I'm joining the Bookish 2013 TBR Pile Reading Challenge.  Hopefully this will keep me going.

I'd love company!!

You don't even have to commit to the particular books you're going to read, you can add to it, so if you're like me and can't decide what you're going to read until it's time to crack a book open, you can still participate.

The one big caveat is that if you want to participate in the giveaways, you must write reviews on your books, but they can be done on GoodReads, Amazon, Blogs, etc.

Good Luck!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Book Review: Ripper's Row by Donnie Light

Title: Ripper's Row
Author: Donnie Light
Publication Date: November 01, 2010

Book Description:
In the fall of 1888, Jack the Ripper cut a swath of blood and terror through the streets of London, in an area known as Whitechapel. The papers called him a monster for attacking innocent women in the night. But if the world only knew the truth behind Jack's monstrous acts, they would think differently. Jack was a madman, yes, but a madman on a mission to save the world from the foul creatures of the night. Creatures that haunted his soul, tortured his existence, and made every minute of his life a living hell. Only Jack the Ripper could save the unsuspecting masses from the vampires that ruled the streets of Whitechapel after dark. Only he could strike down the dangerous Master Vampire William Carpenter-or die in the attempt. Follow the infamous "Jack the Ripper" through a harrowing adventure to take back the streets of Victorian London, and reclaim the honor of a love lost to darkness.

Review: 3 out of 5 stars
I have to admit that the title alone drew me to the book.  I'm a fan of alternate history, so a chance to read about Jack the Ripper made me giggly as a teenage girl.

For the most part, I really enjoyed this book.  Donnie Light and Shawn Weaver did a fantastic job of giving a back story to the characters.  I guess because there were only two main characters, it was quite easy.  But even the lesser characters got their "story" told as well.

I also loved the idea that maybe Jack the Ripper wasn't evil, he was something else.  There was careful interweaving of Ripper facts throughout the novel.

However, did find myself rooting quite heavily for the vampire throughout the novel, and wished someone would just get rid of Jack already, as his cockiness was getting to be a bore.  I guess this is more of a testament to Mr. Light's writing style that he could achieve the level of hatred in a reader that he did, and the level of sympathy that I did for his nemesis, William.

The book was a fast read, and very well written.  I got through it in hardly no time.

The one thing that I did not like, and caused me to only give it three stars is the ending.  I understand that authors now like to write series books.  They can be quite enjoyable.  Stephanie Laurens and Julia Quinn have done an amazing job doing this.  However, with Stephanie Laurens and Julia Quinn, each book, while part of a series, is stand alone.  I can read it and feel satisfied with the ending.

I was not satisfied with the ending.  The book just stopped.  And then was an advertisement to continue the story with his next novel, Ripper's Revenge.  I didn't want to have to invest in 2+ books to have the story told.  The second book could be about a character from the first, but don't just stop writing your book half-way through in order to force people to buy your next book just to finally read the ending.

I may just be nit-picky, but the ending of the novel made me mad, and made me felt like I wasted time reading it, because I don't know the ending.

Disclosure: I bought this book from Amazon.com. I did not receive any compensation for my review, and this review is unsolicited.