Friday, January 21, 2011

The Haunted by Jessica Verday

     After an extended stay with her Aunt, Abbey finally feels ready to move on and put Kristen's death behind her. She's managed to forget about Caspian. Well, she thought she had, until he shows up in her life once again. It just isn't in their cards to be apart...

     Okay, I will do my best not to go into fan-girl gushing mode. I must say though, this book was fabulous! I can't tell you how much I enjoy Jessica Verday's writing style. It's just... comfortable.
     The characters were developed even further in this book and the plot was just as interesting as in the last. The whole idea of Revenants and such was intriguing, to say the least. I want to know more though. I felt a little lost when it came to that aspect of the plot because it wasn't really explained for what seemed like forever. Not that I'm complaining of course; it definitely helped build the tension. I'm sure that I'll get to know more in the next book, which I am dying to get my hands on!
     Now that we've gotten to know Abbey, I can honestly say she is an amazing, dynamic character. Unlike me, Abbey isn't too interested in school. She has other plans for her future, but she is not lazy. I think I like her because she isn't your average teenager. Abbey is much more mature than her peers.
     After having read The Haunted, I can understand why Abbey has fallen for Caspian. He is more vulnerable in this book and that allows the reader to get to know him better. The glimpses into his life are helpful, not to mention interesting. Granted, Caspian is pretty great, but I can't make myself forget about Ben. Even if he actually liked Kristen, I still think him and Abbey would have been good together. Of course, Abbey gets to decide for herself. I will refrain from pressuring her into accepting my view. :)
     I can not wait to read the next book. I need to know what happens! If you haven't read this book yet, you are crazy.
     Rating: 9.7

Friday, January 14, 2011

H.A. Goodman

     H. A. Goodman is here to give us a bit of information about himself and his novel, Logic of Demons: The Quest for Nadine's Soul!

1. What led you to write Logic of Demons? Was it something that happened to you, or something you witnessed? Why did you decide to actually publish Logic of Demons?

     About one year ago, a couple of close friends betrayed me. This event, along with several other issues I was going through, inspired me to write Logic of Demons. Essentially, the novel is about how human beings justify their actions, the thought process (or lack thereof) pertaining to decision making, and how even good people are at times capable of immoral behavior. Getting back to my squabble with several close friends, I remember that during the last conversation I had with one of them, he actually quoted a Bible verse in an attempt to give me advice. Thus, the theme behind my book stems from an observation of how religion can be used to legitimize a point of view, or even to circumvent logic. Writing the novel was a catharsis and helped me heal from the hurtful actions of others and my mistakes as well (I wasn’t perfect either). It also enabled me to make a statement about humanity – all at once. I suggest that anyone going through heartache write a story and vent emotions through characters, a plot, and a storyline. If your literary endeavor is fueled by emotions that you’d normally bottle up inside, it will automatically be successful because the pursuit of writing will help alleviate stress and perhaps heal some wounds.

2. How did your background in history and international relations have an impact on the events in the book? On the characters?
     Well, there are two wonderful books that I think anyone interested in politics, world events, and human nature should read. The first book is entitled, On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman. Mr. Grossman’s On Killing is an unbelievable look into the human mind, and how people can be conditioned to kill a legitimate enemy (in battle) and even innocent people (during genocides or slaughters). Mr. Grossman taught psychology at West Point, and the case studies and research found in his book are eye opening and reveal a part of all human beings most of us don’t like to recognize. Ultimately, he highlights how the human mind can justify an entire array of cruel acts, and how these rationalizations can lead to dire emotional consequences. Another wonderful book is God is Not Great, by Christopher Hitchens. Mr. Hitchens analyzes how religion has been utilized throughout history to legitimize irrational, dangerous, and often times deadly behavior. Both books helped me also see how one of my friends (who happened to be quite religious) was able to justify his actions, even though these actions were not only contrary to religious values, but also in opposition to logical and rational thought. In addition, I did research on the Rwandan Genocide, the Iran-Iraq War, and various other historical events that are addressed in my novel.

3. Your novel takes the idea of 'good' versus 'bad' to a new level. The main character himself has acted immorally, but is he truly a bad person? Is anyone entirely 'good' or entirely 'bad', in your opinion?
     I think Devin is a good person; he just wanted to avenge the death of his wife, which in turn caused him to commit a horrible act. Ultimately, he pays for his lack of self control in the afterlife, and quest for Nadine’s soul begins. I think that the vast majority of people on this planet are good, wonderful people. However, it unfortunately only takes a small number of people to cause a tremendous amount of pain and havoc for everyone. But to answer your question completely, everyone is capable of committing evil, and even though it can be difficult at times, it’s up to each of us to control our behavior and act in accordance with decency and goodness.

4. Devin made a huge mistake, but he was eventually able to redeem himself. Do you think that everyone deserves a second chance?
     I’d say most people deserve a second chance. However, when it comes to mass murder, for example, such killers in my view don’t deserve reprieve.

5. Religion plays an immense role in your book, as does the idea of religious fanaticism. Did you create this added tension in order to convey a particular message?
     Ultimately, I believe that positive actions speak louder than words or even “faith.” A person can have all the faith in the world, be able to quote Bible verses, give 10% of their income to a religious institution, and do everything their religious leader tells them to do, but if their actions are inconsistent with logic and rationality, and if their behavior hurts other physically or emotionally, then all their beliefs don’t help the world. Although I’m Jewish, philosophically I’m agnostic in my view of the world. I don’t believe “the guy upstairs” plays favorites, and if I wasn’t so frightened of the notion of nothing happening when we pass on, I’d probably be an atheist. Also, I believe that tribalism, or any viewpoint that leads a person to think that their culture or religion (or manner in which they separate themselves from others), is better than another person’s background , is the scourge of humanity. History has shown that millions can be slaughtered if certain people are deemed by more powerful groups to be less than human, or below the worth of the powerful group. A quick look at world history easily sheds light into the phenomenon of tribalism and its consequences.

6. Which character is most like you? What are some of the similarities and differences?
     I’m probably a combination of all the characters – hopefully a lot more of the angels than the other guys!
7. You put a lot of historical references into your book. Is there a time period you would like to visit, given the chance?
     It might sound odd, but knowing what I know about history, I’d probably like to just stay in 2011.

8. Is there anything else you would like to add, whether it is about yourself, your novel, or the writing process?
     I’d like to thank you, Alex, for taking the time to review the novel and I appreciate the interview! Also, I encourage everyone who is going through stress or a tough time in life to write a story, a poem, or something that will allow them to display, or vent emotions on paper.

     Thank you so much for the wise advice and for taking the time to answer my questions honestly! Make sure to check out Hal's own website and his book. I hope everyone enjoyed the interview, because I certainly enjoyed coming up with the questions.  

Sunday, January 9, 2011

My First Challenge

     That's right, I finally decided to commit to a challenge, my first as a book blogger! Misha at My Love Affair With Books is hosting the Wish I'd Read That Challenge 2011 and I am beyond excited. I think I can actually accomplish something in this challenge, despite my lack of speed reading skills. :)
My Love Affair With Books
     I'm hoping I can make it to the 4th level. Twenty books seems like something I can do, especially since they are books I've been meaning to read anyway. Now I just need to figure out which books I will attempt to read...

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Logic of Demons: The Quest for Nadine's Soul by H. A. Goodman

     What would you do if the love of your life was murdered by a deranged killer? Would you become a vigilante and seek retribution? And would this revenge affect those you care for in the afterlife? LOGIC OF DEMONS The Quest for Nadine's Soul takes you on a journey inside the psyches of men and women forced to deal with the spiritual consequences of their decisions. Through the lives of a demon, two Angels, and a mysterious teenage girl, a plethora of politically and socially relevant issues ranging from the roots of genocide and sex trafficking to child conscription and religious fundamentalism are addressed in this fantasy thriller. Life as well as the afterlife converge in this novel to explain certain peculiarities of the human condition. Whether you are God fearing individual or an atheist, LOGIC OF DEMONS The Quest for Nadine's Soul addresses moral and theological issues of interest for people of all backgrounds.
--Summary from back of book

     This book was simultaneously revolting and intriguing. I wanted to keep reading and yet I didn't. The characters were interesting enough, but the events that were taking place were horrendous (the scenes concerning genocide and such were just so sad).
     The biggest problem I had with Logic of Demons was that it was a bit hard to follow the action. Not to mention that it was slightly slow to really get going. The writing itself wasn't bad, though. It was compelling enough and was able to draw forth my emotions. For the most part the characters were believable as well.
     I'm not sure what to think of Devin. He was despicable and selfish at times, but it's hard to forget why he is that way. When you really get down to it though, he isn't such a bad person. He made a terrible mistake. Who hasn't? Granted, I've never done anything as drastic and horrid as Devin, but no one is perfect. I just wish that he wasn't quite so naive and gullible! I mean, I figured out who he was 'working' for far before Natalia told him.
     My favorite character was probably Natalia. She was a pretty neat Angel, I must say. The thing is, she didn't try to sugar-coat anything for Devin. She made him deal with his new reality and that helped him to grow as a person. Eventually, he came to realize that his actions were important even in the after-life. So, despite his hope of seeing Bridget again, he began taking things more seriously and tried to make better, more conscientious decisions.
     Nadine's portion of the story was most interesting to me. Her life was depressing, but she kept going. I admired her for that. It couldn't have been easy, given her uncle's incessant griping and such.
     As a whole, this book wasn't really my cup of tea. I didn't dislike it, per se, but it was not my favorite either. Goodman did do a wonderful job creating a unique storyline, one that had plenty of twists. He also created some interesting characters. None the less, I didn't care for it as much as I thought I might. I'm sure plenty of people would enjoy the book more than I did, and if it sounds interesting to you, I encourage you to read it!
     Rating: 5.6
*The fact that I received this book from the author did not influence my opinion of it in any way. This was my honest review.

Book Blogger Hop (January 7-10)

     I had to go back to school this week which really put a cramp on my reading time. What a tragedy, I know, but I shall live anyway! I have a few new reviews coming up (eventually, because we all know I have trouble with being on time) for the lovely books I was able to read over my Christmas break. I hope everyone had a wonderful Holiday season!
Book Blogger Hop

Question of the Week:
     What book influenced or changed your life? How did it influence/change you?
     Honestly, I think that just about every book I read affects me in some way. Books tend to leave their mark behind and even the seemingly inconsequential ones make a difference, however small.
     Probably some of the more influential books I've read include Blue by Lou Aronica (review coming in February), Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak and My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult. All of these books were so powerful. They spoke to me in a way that other books aren't necessarily capable of. One thing in particular that the above mentioned books have in common is that they all made me realize how short life is. I think I appreciate some of the more mundane aspects of life because of them.

     What books had an impact on your life?

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Hollow by Jessica Verday

     When Abbey's best friend, Kristen, vanishes at the bridge near Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, everyone else is all too quick to accept that Kristen is dead… Then she meets Caspian, the gorgeous and mysterious boy who shows up out of nowhere at Kristen's funeral, and keeps reappearing in Abbey's life.
--Taken from Jessica Verday's website

     Jessica Verday did a great job with this novel. It was written so well! I love the style she used because it was down to earth and just pleasant. I found myself very eager to continue.
     The start of The Hollow was much darker than I expected. It was difficult to connect with Abbey because I wasn't entirely sure what was happening just yet. I was just drowning in her sorrow over Kristen's death, but I didn't know enough about Kristen or Abbey's relationship with her to care. So, I plodded along hoping that I would soon find out what was going on and I'm glad that I did. One of my favorite parts about The Hollow, besides just about everything, were the flashbacks Abbey had. The little moments she had with Kristen that made me remember my own adventures with friends were great: the hair incident was funny and showed how close the two friends were.
     As a character, Abbey is probably one of the most well-rounded heroins I've read about in a while. She isn't really sure what she wants out of life and that makes her more real to me. She has beautiful dreams for her future though, and I love seeing her work towards it. She is caring, but doesn't worry what people think and doesn't bother trying to placate those that will never understand. I love that Abbey makes perfumes! I think that is so neat. I really wish I were talented enough to try something like that, but I think I'll stick to reading about her making them instead. :)
     Honestly, I couldn't really see what Abbey saw in Caspian. I mean, sure, he's cute, but what else does she know about him? Not much. I could probably list the things she knows about him on one hand. All Caspian really has going for him is that mysterious charm (which if I'm being completely truthful is quite appealing...) and a kind demeanor, but other than that he is just a random guy who shows up at the most random time in her life.
     Ben, on the other hand, is a really nice guy. I can tell he cares about Abbey and I kind of wish she would just give him a chance. He's hilarious, after all! "Every time my five-year-old sister turns on the waterworks, I end up buying her a Barbie. You don't need a new Barbie, do you?" How can you not fall for that one? If that isn't enough, Ben is always there for Abbey. He's a great science partner and he is there when she needs him.
     The story behind this book is based off of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow which makes for a very interesting plot. It is set in the town of Sleepy Hollow, this beautiful town steeped in history. That history has a lot to do with who Abbey is as a person.
     I loved this book! I can't believe it's taken me so long to get around to reading it either. The writing and the characters are fabulous. Verday has certainly outdone herself!
     Rating: 10

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Farewell 2010, Hello 2011

     I read some amazing books last year (wow, last year!), and others that weren't so fabulous. Either way, there are plenty of things I'll miss about 2010 and many I am looking forward to in 2011!
2010 Favorites:
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Beastly by Alex Flinn
Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater (Yes, I finally read it!)
Warrior by Marie Brennan
The Hollow by Jessica Verday
Dreaming Anastasia by Joy Preble
Cleopatra's Daughter by Michelle Moran
Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare
The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson

     As you can see, not all of these were published in 2010, but I read them for the first time this year and fell in love. :)

2010 Least Loved:
Nightlight: A Parody by The Harvard Lampoon
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
One in a Million by Kimberla Lawson Roby
Merlin's Harp by Anne Eliot Crompton

     I can't wait to read all of the wonderful books that I'm sure will fall into my hands this year! Happy New Year! I hope you have a lovely year filled with some fantastic books that make you laugh, cry, and maybe even change your perspective on life.