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Review: The Maze Runner by James Dashner

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Going into this book, I was expecting something along the lines of The Hunger Games. A gripping survival story sprinkled with some rebellion. What I got, was not that at all. The story starts off with the main character waking up in an elevator being brought into the Maze. The author gives no backstory as to why there is a maze, why only boys are given to the maze, why they have no recollection of their lives before the Maze, and his language usage is ridiculous. He substitutes curse words with his own words, and as a result of it, it makes the book and him, sound immature. (He has the characters say klunk instead of s**t)
Once inside the Maze, the main character is placed into a “job” with other boys that are in the Maze. Jobs include: butchers, farmers, and Runners. The runners go outside that Maze to see what is out there and to see if they can find an escape. This tried too hard to simulate the Districts from Hunger Games, and epically failed.
The story was supposed to pick up the pace when he introduced the first girl to the Maze. Her arrival shook the foundation of the camp. They had never seen a girl in here before and are wondering what it means. While all this is going on, the main character becomes a runner. He gathers a small party to go explore the outside of the maze.
My final opinion of this book, if you want to read it, go borrow it from your local library. If you enjoy it, go purchase the rest of the series. It tried too hard to be “the next Hunger Games” type of series, and fell horribly flat. It physically pained me to read this book.

Review by Meg Bahr

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Review: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

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Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff is the first in a new young adult sci-fi trilogy centering around an invasion of the planet Kerenza by two rival corporations set in the year 2575. We follow Kady Grant, a spunky, computer savvy girl who dreams to explore the universe, and Ezra Mason, a caring guy with a great sense of humor. At the beginning of the novel Kady has just broken up with Ezra before the sky rains fire upon the colony as a warship, Lincoln, attacks without warning or cause. The two exes have to put aside their feelings of anger and heartbreak to work together in order to escape the invasion. During their escape Ezra is injured and carted off to the ship Alexander to undergo treatment and Kady boards the Hypatia. The fleet is accompanied by a third ship Copernicus housing more refugees and Kady’s mother. The fleet is pursued by the invading ship on their way to a nearby jump gate but they are under heavy fire and the Alexander sustains major haul damage. With the Alexander limping through space the fleet slows to help in its aid but the Lincoln is hot on their trail.
This book is unlike anything I’ve ever read before. The format in which the story is told is through a dossier of the invasion and the events that follow. We are immersed into the story by interviews, instant messaging conversations, military files, transmissions between ships, medical documentation, and schematics. The flight sequences were so creative in their delivery to make you feel like you were sitting in the cockpit of a Cyclone fighter. Amie and Jay were smart in how they set up the moments of calm with hilarious emails and IMs and the intense and heart pounding events with page layouts that had you frantically turning pages. Each of the characters were relatable and easy to love right from the start, both, Kady and Ezra, were great as individual characters and together. Sometimes in popular YA you find that certain characters are better appreciated when they are with another main or supporting character, this was not the case and it was refreshing. I have to admit to a fictional crush on Ezra because his sarcastic sense of humor made me laugh out loud and I adored his romantic side.
Illuminae’s twists and turns will keep you guessing about what is going to happen next and you’ll never see the end coming. There were several plot twists in the book that stopped me in my tracks and I had to put it down to process what I had just read. You will laugh and cry and cheer out loud during your reading and you’ll want to tell everyone about this book.

I have nothing negative to say about this book, it was a fantastic fast paced read that kept me glued to its pages until the very end. This book isn’t just a beautiful cover it is stunning inside and out, pick up this book and take a peek under the dust jacket and flip through the pages.

CXZRplbWsAAGVsC I cannot stop thinking about this book.

If you are looking for something new in the YA genre or if you want to ease into sci-fi I would recommend picking up Illuminae. It’s a total reading experience that you do not want to miss out on. The format of the book is very easy to read and figure out, you will find out that it reads like any other novel.

I can see why this book received so much hype last year at BEA/Bookcon and among book bloggers and YA authors. My only regret is that I didn’t read this sooner!

I gave this book a 5 out of 5 stars on Goodreads.

The sequel, Gemina, will be hitting shelves sometime Fall 2016.

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Review by Amanda S.
You can find me on Twitter and Goodreads
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Book Review: The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma

The Walls Around Us

The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma. 336 pgs. YA Fiction. Image found on google.

“Ori’s dead because of what happened out behind the theater, in the tunnel made out of trees. She’s dead because she got sent to that place upstate, locked up with those monsters. And she got sent there because of me.”

The Walls Around Us is a ghostly story of suspense told in two voices—one still living and one long dead. On the outside, there’s Violet, an eighteen-year-old dancer days away from the life of her dreams when something threatens to expose the shocking truth of her achievement. On the inside, within the walls of a girls’ juvenile detention center, there’s Amber, locked up for so long she can’t imagine freedom. Tying these two worlds together is Orianna, who holds the key to unlocking all the girls’ darkest mysteries.

(Summary excerpt from goodreads.com)

***This review contains spoilers***

This beautifully written book captured my attention from the moment I opened its stunning cover. The elegant writing style pulls you in and sings about a world turned upside down by tragic events of guilt and innocence. I thought that I knew the direction the book as going and how it was going to end but I was completely blindsided by the ending. I’ve never read an ending quite like this one and it was the best example of the saying, “Karma is a bitch.” The characters were well developed and I related to two of the characters, Orianna and Amber. I laughed, cried and cheered with them.

The story is told in dual perspectives, Amber and Violet, that overlap each other and a third character, Orianna, who is the connecting factor. Amber is serving time in a girl’s detention center, Aurora Hills, and sees no end to her sentence in sight. She keeps her head down and knows her place within its cinder block walls. Amber’s position is to push the library cart down each wing and pass out books, she takes pride in her job to make sure the books are nice and organized. She differs from the other girls in the facility because she is viewed as innocent, the other girls have taken part in violent crimes but Amber appears to be there by guilty association. When Orianna is sent to Aurora Hills she becomes Amber’s new cellmate which changes both of their lives forever. Violet is an eighteen year old on the cusp of starting her new life at Juilliard to pursue her dreams of being a famous ballerina. Three years ago a violent act took place behind the dumpsters at her school involving two fellow ballerina’s, as well as, Violet and Orianna. Orianna, a girl who was a natural at ballet and a genuine friend, was convicted of the crime that took place that fateful night three years prior. She was sent to Aurora Hills where she meets and befriends, Amber. But her tale is told through Amber and Violet because Orianna is dead.

This book touches on great topics such as bullying, peer pressure and domestic violence. Showing how each can effect people’s lives by leading them down dark paths. Rachel and Harmony bully Violet, one day they are sweet and the next calling her names, but when boys enter their ballet class the bullying reaches a new height. Cody seduces her into a very compromising position and unbeknownst to Violet the other girls are recording the whole ordeal. They continue to tease and torment her about said incident. As the story progresses we find out that Orianna comes from a broken home and Violet comes from a wealthy family. While Violet and Orianna have a great friendship from the outside we see that Violet manipulates her best friend by using her big heart against her. Violet pressures Orianna at a young age to hold her ballet progression back so Violet can strengthen her feet to begin pointe lessons. It’s all done indirectly but nonetheless it’s evident that her jealousy of Orianna forces her lash out in a passive aggressive manner. Violet’s jealously manifests into rage when Rachel and Harmony’s teasing goes too far, subsequently resulting in the death of the two girls. Violet throughout the whole novel denies any involvement in the act and pins it on Orianna. Guilty by association Orianna is the one punished and takes the blame for Violet, who doesn’t defend her friend once. In the case of Amber she claims to be innocent on the outside but inside she is guilty. Her mother married an abusive man and Amber quietly plots ways to get rid of him. At first it is harmless things, merely wishing him gone but it then escalates to attempting to poison him and tampering with his car. After several attempts at fiddling with her stepfather’s car she gives up but it explodes one evening causing his death. Amber being home all day sick should have been her saving grace but her mother chooses the stepfather’s side. This sends Amber to the detention facility.

I want to take a minute to talk about Orianna. She effected the lives of everyone around her and I couldn’t help but feel a strong connection to her. She’s the type of friend that everyone needs in their lives, a pure soul, who is always there for you and will do things for other people without a selfish agenda. She is such a strong presence in this book without being a primary voice, but her voice is the loudest. She made me feel the most throughout the entire book and I couldn’t help shouting out with joy at the ending (I had to put the book down to gather myself before continuing.)

The supernatural element to the story was one of the best elements of the story. I didn’t see it coming at all it took me completely by surprise; it elevated the ending to a new level. Karma. The best use of karma with a supernatural element in a young adult contemporary that I have ever read and I wish it would happen in real life. Orianna appearing to Violet at the end was super creepy (in a good way) and I found myself glued to the pages waiting to find out what was going to happen.

I usually read series and trilogies, my book cases are packed with never ending series. It’s not often that I read a standalone novel; the story has to be special in order for me to even think about picking it up. The Walls Around Us is a very special book. This book is everything and more. The characters and the story will stay with me for a very long time and I can say that this book is going on my top reads of 2015. I can’t wait to reread it. I love this book. I love the characters and the writing. The writing is beautiful; I cannot stress this enough. I’m finding it extremely hard to adequately describe my feelings. It’s just so good. I urge everyone to go out and pick up a copy and begin reading immediately; you do not want to miss out on this stunning novel! If you love a good young adult paranormal suspense then this is a book for you. Since this is a YA novel expect themes appropriate of that age group (sexual situations and implied drug use.) I highly recommend this book.

I gave The Walls Around Us 5 out of 5 stars on Goodreads.

Review by Amanda S.
You can find me on twitter and goodreads.
Please follow Nova Ren Suma on twitter!
and of course, give Books with a Past a follow too!

 

Review: Red Dragon by Thomas Harris

“In the realm of psychological suspense, Thomas Harris stands alone. exploring both the nature of human evil and the nerve-racking anatomy of forensic investigation, Harris unleashes a frightening vision of the dark side of our well-lighted world. In this extraordinary tale — which preceded The Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal, Harris introduced the unforgettable character Dr. Hannibal Lecter. And in it, Will Graham — the FBI man who hunted Lecter down — risks his sanity and his life to duel a killer called…

The Red Dragon

A quiet summer night…a neat suburban house…and another happy family is shattered — the latest victims of a grisly series of hideous sacrificial killings that no one understands, and no one can stop. Nobody lives to tell of the unimaginable carnage. Only the blood-stained walls bear witness.

All hope rests on the Special Agent Will Graham, who must peer inside the killer’s tortured soul to understand his rage, to anticipate and prevent his next vicious crime. Desperate for help, Graham finds himself locked in a deadly alliance with the brilliant Dr. Hannibal Lecter — the infamous mass murderer who Graham put in prison years ago. As the imprisoned Lecter tightens the reins of revenge, Graham’s feverish pursuit of the Red Dragon draws him inside the warped mind of a psychopath,, into an unforgettable world of demonic ritual and violence, beyond the limits of human terror.”

(summary from Amazon.com)

I grew up knowing about Hannibal Lecter but I had never seen the movies or read any of the books, for the simple fact that I was too young and the subject matter wasn’t age appropriate. However, I have older cousins who were old enough and at family gatherings I would overhear their conversations, plus Hannibal is part of our pop culture. My first brush with the famous fictional cannibal was with the NBC show Hannibal ,which is set before Dr. Lecter is captured by Will Graham. With the next season not premiering until April of next year I needed to fill the empty space that Hannibal and Will had created. I wanted to see how it was going to end for the two of them and to get better acquainted with Harris’ work.

These past few weeks I’ve been so busy with hardly any time to just relax but on those rare spare moments I could not put this book down. This book is way out of my reading comfort zone, I usually read YA Fiction with the occasional Sci-Fi novel, but murder mystery thrillers have never made my list. The style in which this book is written did, at times, confuse me. A chapter would start off with Will Graham as the main focus and then immediately changes to another character for a single sentence and then switches back. I settled into the style after getting into the meat of the book and found it to be mirroring the way Graham’s mind works, he sees a swinging pendulum when he enters the thought process of the psychopath and he is able to jump from one reality to the next. Graham enlists the help of Dr. Lector to help capture the Dragon but I was disappointed that Hannibal wasn’t more involved in the case. There was only one meeting between the two and a few letters from Hannibal to Will but he was scarcely used. I felt that there was a missed opportunity to use Hannibal in a more devious way in conjunction with the Dragon. Hannibal being resourceful, cunning, and manipulative could have played an interesting role in bringing the Dragon and Will together in a cat and mouse scenario.

That being said the evolution of the Francis Dolarhyde character was fascinating. I really enjoyed reading his backstory and how everything that happened to him from birth through his adolescence molded him into the Dragon. Getting into his head captured my full attention and I felt sorry for him after reading it. Nothing in his childhood excuses his killing of the Jacobi and the Leeds families but it was the neglect and abuse that he suffered that rewired his brain to kill and torture. After his mother abandoned him because of his disfigurement his grandmother raises him and his overwhelming need to not disappoint and ultimately protect her lead to his first kill, a chicken. He loses himself to the feeling of relief the kill gives him and he experiments with other pets. It was disturbing to read how he gets off sexually while reviewing the films of his kills and that of his future kill and I found myself having to pause while reading. When he meets Reba McClane everything starts to change for him but the damage has been done he is too far into his own sickness that he cannot escape.

I really enjoyed this book and was surprised as to how deep I dove into its pages. The ending caught me completely off guard even though I should have seen it coming. I am eager to read the rest of the Hannibal Lecter series to see what the cannibal is capable of.

Review written by Amanda S.
You can find my reviews and other posts on acciogoodreads

Review: The Vampire Diaries: Stefan’s Diaries Vol.1: Origins

The Vampire Diaries Stefan’s Diaries vol.1 Origins. YA Fiction. 237 pages. image found on google

I apologize for such a late review. I’ve been trying to read The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling and I’m finding it very hard to pick up.

“A love triangle that will span eternity…

The year is 1864 and the Civil War rages on. But seventeen-year-old Stefan Salvatore is fighting a battle all his own. Engaged to marry someone he does not love, Stefan falls for a mysterious girl named Katherine. With her gleaming curls and mischievous brown eyes, Katherine is beautiful and seduction…but she also harbors a dark secret: She’s a vampire.

Based on the popular CW TV show inspired by the bestselling novels, Stefan’s Diaries reveals what really happened between Stefan, Damon, and Katherine—and how the Vampire Diaries love triangle began.”

Summary from the back of the book.

 

Being a huge fan of the hit television series I absolutely had to read Stefan’s Diaries to find out more about the brother’s troubled past. I think every fan has their favorite brother, although mine isn’t Stefan, he plays a key role in Damon’s past and how he became the vampire he is in the books and the show. I initially thought the entire book was going to be written as journal entries but that is not the case. There are a few entries scattered throughout the book but for the most part it is a retelling of Stefan’s human life, how he met Katherine Pierce up until he is forced to turn his beloved brother into a vampire. In comparison to L.J. Smith’s Vampire Diaries series the narrative isn’t as strong and is a very easy read. However, putting that aside, it was a very interesting read because the single episode in which the back story of the Salvatore brothers was told seemed to give just enough information to satisfy the audience before returning to the original plot line. I enjoyed getting inside Stefan’s head and understanding why he acts the way he does in the show. What I found interesting, and I wish was mentioned in the show, was that he was originally propositioned by his father to marry a girl, Rosalyn, to create a business alliance with her father, a wealthy banker. Even though he didn’t love her he wanted to try to find the qualities within her personality that would make him fall for her. The show made it seem like he was completely obsessed with Katherine and thought of no other woman, or cared about anything else. This showed a side of Stefan that I think the fans would have loved to have seen and for die-hard fans of Damon would maybe sympathize more with Stefan. I do see him from a different light now but I still find Damon to be my favorite. Another thing about this book that I loved is that you see how much he truly loves his brother and how he strives to do his best to please his father and make him proud. No one can deny that Damon is the rebellious type and is very strong willed and we see that their father put more weight onto Stefan’s shoulders to be an upstanding citizen and heir to their estate. Even when Katherine enters their lives and flips everything upside down Stefan is still cautious about his actions and tries his hardest to still be a good son in his father’s eyes.

I recommend this book to the fans of the show since it follows the storyline more closely to the series more than the books. For fans of the show who haven’t read the original books by L.J. Smith, I urge you to go and read them as they are fantastic and will keep you up late to finish the books. My advice is to not read them on a school night, but we all know how well that works out. This series is written by a ghost writer but if you do a basic search of The Vampire Diaries series it should come up with the results.

Review written by Amanda S.
You can find my reviews and other posts on acciogoodreads

Review: Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

Vampire Academy by Michelle Mead. YA Fiction. 332 pages. Image found on google

“St. Vladimir’s Academy isn’t just any boarding school–it’s a hidden place where vampires are educated in the ways of magic and half-human teens train to protect them. Rose Hathaway is a Dhampir, a bodyguard for her best friend Lissa, a Moroi Vampire Princess. They’ve been on the run, but now they’re being dragged back to St. Vladimir’s–the very place where they’re most in danger. Rose and Lissa become enmeshed in forbidden romance, the Academy’s ruthless social scene, and unspeakable nighttime rituals. But they must be careful lest the Strigoi–the world’s fiercest and most dangerous vampires–make Lissa one of them forever.”

Summary from author’s website, http://www.us.penguingroup.com/static/packages/us/yreaders/vampireacademy/home.html

I don’t love this book but I don’t hate it either. I did enjoy learning about the two vampire species and how they differ, the Moroi are vampires who can handle indirect sunlight and are connected to magic whereas the Strigoi are your stereotypical vampires. Both however need blood to survive the difference is the source. I loved that the author used dhampirs in her novel and that they play a pivotal role in the protection of the Moroi against the Strigoi, rather than dhampirs being outcasted and hunted. The characters were relatable and I found myself sympathizing with Rose. She is passionate about protecting her best friend Lissa and is willing to drop everything on a whim for her. However she is into the party scene and is no stranger to causing mischief on and off the campus. This is where we depart in our personalities, besides all of that who wouldn’t want a friend like Rose?

Now for the bad news, unfortunately, but I have to add my two cents. This book is set in an academy and thought that I would get away from drama. This book is full of high school level drama. I’ve graduated college and suddenly I was hit in the face with petty fights over boyfriend stealing and who is more popular. I’m not saying this book is awful, it is not in the slightest, but I felt that the fights in between plot driving moments were undisguised filler. Another reason I only liked this book is more of a personal reason and I do warn potential readers to this subject matter. Lissa, a Moroi princess, suffers from bouts of severe depression after using her specialized magic and cuts herself. Please be aware of this before purchasing this book for yourself or someone else. Someone very close to me used cutting as an outlet for their depression and it was painful and heartbreaking to watch. This wasn’t a huge portion of the book but the few times it happened it was hard to read. I would recommend this book for vampire lovers but please take inconsideration the subject matter I mentioned above. There are six books in the series, including this one, and I’m interested to see where the journey takes Lissa and Rose. According to Richelle Mead’s website there is going to be a movie adaptation of this novel set for release Feb. 14, 2014.

Review by Amanda S.
You can also see my reviews and other posts on http://acciogoodreads.wordpress.com/

You can follow Richelle Mead on twitter @RichelleMead

Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion

Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion. Fiction. 256 pages. Image found on google.

R is having a no-life crisis—he is a zombie. He has no memories, no identity, and no pulse, but he is a little different from his fellow Dead. He may occasionally eat people, but he’d rather be riding abandoned airport escalators, listening to Sinatra in the cozy 747 he calls home, or collecting souvenirs from the ruins of civilization.

And then he meets a girl.

First as his captive, then his reluctant house guest, Julie is a blast of living color in R’s gray landscape, and something inside him begins to bloom. He doesn’t want to eat this girl—although she looks delicious—he wants to protect her. But their unlikely bond will cause ripples they can’t imagine, and their hopeless world won’t change without a fight.

Summary from the back of the book.

I never thought that I would fall for a zombie and R has captured my heart. I’ve only just recently become a fan of zombies. I mentioned in my review of World War Z that I watched The Walking Dead, all 3 seasons in 2 days, and as simple as that I was hooked. However I didn’t think I would care so passionately about R and the other zombies in this book. I would say that R is the zombie equivalent to Wall-E from the Pixar film. R is different from the other zombies inhabiting the abandon airport, he wants more out of life but he is the undead and unable to express himself other than grunts and moans. His inner monologues give us a unique insight into the life of a zombie and his worries and curiosities are so human. What I found so endearing was his collection of souvenirs that fill every space of his 747, which reminded me of Wall-E. I it found interesting how Marion gives new life to the contemporary myth. It is common knowledge that zombies eat brains but it’s never explained as to why that particular part of human anatomy is their prime target. R explains that when he consumes the brain of a human he gets all the memories of the person and it makes him feel alive, even if it’s only for a moment. Zombies also don’t smell humans the way that we smell each other, they smell the essence of life not sweat or blood and that the hunger hits them all over. The zombies also have created an imitation to the lives they use to have. The zombies have pushed the staircases that lead up to the planes into the shape of an amphitheater and call it a “church” where the Boneys “preach.” Needless to say that it’s nothing but groaning but they are trying to create a sort of semblance of the life they once lead. This is echoed by the living as they try to rebuild and create a sense of normalcy out of the apocalypse.

Julie is the human girl that R takes back to the airport after a hunting trip. She’s at first weary of R and keeps up her guard, she attempts to escape a few times but R rescues her each time. I love their relationship. It’s adorable. After Julie realizes that R isn’t going to hurt her, she starts to open up and relax around him. The humor in this book is genius. Teaching a zombie how to drive a car is hilarious and couldn’t stop laughing at the images floating through my head while reading. Julie also gets R drunk later and being a zombie certain bodily functions cease when turned, his inner monologue expresses his panic about not remembering how to go to the bathroom and among other things. He is a guy despite the fact of being a zombie and he likes Julie so of course he wonders if he could one day be intimate.

This book was a great read and I’m excited to hear about a possible sequel still in the works. I love this book and I’ve already lent my copy out to a friend after she heard me praising it. I do recommend this book for Teens and up. However do be aware of strong language and gore. R is a zombie and there are depictions of him eating humans and Julie and other humans swear throughout the book. If you are not a big zombie fan I urge you to give this book a chance, it’s a unique tale and it’s nothing what you expect.

I recently bought the movie and loved it (I’ve watched it at least 4 times this weekend). The movie follows the book pretty well, there are things omitted and changed, but I wasn’t upset with them. A very good movie adaptation and the actor playing R, Nicholas Hoult, did a fantastic job giving life to the character.

Review by Amanda S.
You can also see my reviews and other posts on http://acciogoodreads.wordpress.com/

You can follow Isaac Marion on twitter @isaacinspace

Inferno by Dan Brown

Inferno by Dan Brown. Fiction. 480 pages. Image found on google

Against this backdrop, Langdon battles a chilling adversary and grapples with an ingenious riddle that pulls him into a landscape of classic art, secret passageways, and futuristic science. Drawing from Dante’s dark epic poem, Langdon races to find answers and decide whom to trust . . . before the world is irrevocably altered.

Summary from the author’s website, http://www.danbrown.com/inferno/

Our favorite Harvard Professor of Art History and Symbology is back!

Robert Langdon awakes to find himself in a hospital recovering from a concussion caused by a grazed bullet. When he glances out the hospital window he makes a startling discovery; he is in Florence, Italy.  Worse yet, he doesn’t remember how he got there. Events start to unravel fast as a woman clad in black leather shoots and kills one of the doctors attending to him. Sienna Brooks, the other attending physician, reacts fast and helps Robert escape the armed woman and the soldiers marching up the stairs. Suffering from retrograde amnesia Robert’s memories appear as flashes of disturbing images; legs protruding from the ground, hordes of dead people, mask of a plague doctor and a veiled silver haired woman telling Robert to “seek and find.” Hidden in a secret pocket in Langdon’s jacket is a tiny canister, inside is a Faraday pointer that projects La Mappa dell’Inferno by Sandro Botticelli. The painting is a tribute to Dante’s Inferno and depicts Dante’s travels through the nine circles of Hell. Langdon is quick to see that the painting has been altered and deciphering the message leads Sienna and Robert all over Florence. The disturbing codes are the work of a brilliant scientist who is deeply influenced by Dante and creates his own hell on Earth. Racing against the clock and the authorities Robert and Sienna dive head first into a raging inferno.

I absolutely love this book! This is, without a doubt, the best book in the Robert Langdon series yet! Being a fan of the previous novels in the series and the two standalone novels, Digital Fortress and Deception Point, I patiently awaited the arrival of this novel. I enjoyed learning more about Dante and his famous epic poem through the labyrinth of cryptic messages and codes. Having touched on The Divine Comedy when I was in school I was never fully immersed in his life or the true, or hidden, meanings of his work. It’s hard to grasp something so complex when you’re so young. Many of the art and architecture mentioned in the book that help guide Langdon on his journey of discovery I studied while in college. I recommend that as you read to search for the works of art, the author gives a detailed description of the artwork, however the pieces are stunning. This made it easier to picture in perfect detail the paintings or sculptures so I could try to piece together what was going to happen. I attempt but Langdon is always out smarts me. What I love about his novels is the journey through the historic cities and the suspenseful chase. The novel flows easily and is brimming with information but you are not weighed down by the facts. I recommend this novel to avid Dan Brown fans, you will not be disappointed! To those who are picking up a Dan Brown novel for the first time I suggest starting from the beginning of the Langdon series with Angels &Demons, but Inferno makes no references to the previous novels.

Review by Amanda S.
You can also see my reviews and other posts on http://acciogoodreads.wordpress.com/

You can follow Dan Brown on twitter @AuthorDanBrown

Below are a few of my favorite works of art and architecture mentioned/visited in the book:

Hagia Sophia. 532-537

Hagia Sophia (Interior). 532-537

Il Duomo by Brunelleschi. 1446–1461

Gates of Paradise, Nothern Doors by Ghiberti. 1401-1424

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks

World War Z by Max Brooks. Fiction – Horror. 420 pages. Image found on Google.

“We survived the zombie apocalypse, but how many of us are still haunted by that terrible time? We have (temporarily?) defeated the living dead, but at what cost? Told in the haunting and riveting voices of the men and women who witnessed the horror firsthand, World War Z is the only record of the plaque years.”
Summary found on back of book.

The interviewer remains anonymous throughout the novel, stressing that the book belongs to the survivors.  Each new voice adds another piece to the puzzle, starting from the very beginning to the peaceful years following mankind’s reclaim of the world. In the words of General D’Ambrosia , a survivor, “The book of war, the one we’ve been writing since one ape slapped another, was completely useless in this situation. We had to write a new one from scratch.” No one knew how to combat this new enemy, in order to fight and conquer; you need to have prior knowledge of their strengths and weaknesses. Zombies are stripped of their humanity and are driven by their primal hunger of flesh. World War Z is set in a world where zombies do not exist in their cultures so they went to war completely blind. Yonkers is the most referenced battle because of how the squad stationed there floundered about even with every weapon imaginable at their disposal. The zombies continued their relentless trudge up the streets towards the men whom they wanted to devour. They cared not for the conditions of their own bodies, missing limbs or vital organs dangling from their flesh, did nothing to stop them. The only way to kill the undead is to destroy the brain, which is where the infection starts the reanimation process of the body. With the rising number of infected joining the ranks of the zombies mankind had to think of ways to come back into power and they had to do it on the run.

This novel was not at all what I expected. After becoming a fan of the television show The Walking Dead on AMC and accustomed to the gore and violence I was prepared and anticipating something similar to that. It was mostly comprised of military or political accounts of the war and not head to head zombie combat or encounters. It was difficult to get into, at first, each interview coming from a different person, felt episodic and disconnected instead of a single coherent narrative. However, I enjoyed each interview of civilian encounters with the undead and I wish there were more of those stories being told. One such story I connected to belonged to Kondo Tatsumi, living in Kyoto, at the peak of the apocalypse. He described himself as an outcast and lived his life through the internet forums completely oblivious to the threat right outside his apartment building. His parents would leave him meals outside his bedroom door and he only became aware of the threat when the Wi-Fi cut out, not the fact that the meals had stopped arriving. He used his knowledge of films he had seen and that on internet to escape the zombies, knotting together bed sheets to climb down from each balcony to escape from his infected neighbors. I would like to think that if he could survive the apocalypse then so could I. The parts that gave me the creeps were the interviews that told of zombies living in the oceans attacking ships and small boats. The interview that upset me was of Commander Terry Knox of the International Space Station who could only sit back and watch as the world fell apart from the view screens on board the space station. Although I found it a hard read in the beginning I quickly became immersed in the war and the mechanics of fighting an enemy unlike any that had become before. Once I hit “The Great Panic” I could not put this book down. I recommend this book to all zombie lovers of appropriate age, be aware that there are disturbing images described and the use of strong language. I look forward to the movie adaptation hitting theaters soon.

Review by Amanda S.
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Point-Counterpoint: Ulysses

Anyone who’s ever had to do required summer reading knows that there’s always controversy over what makes a book a classic.  Everyone has their own opinion, and here at Books With A Past, we have many opinions.  Fortunately for us, the staff also has differing opinions, which leads us to this thread: Point-Counterpoint.  Each literary opinion in this section will be argued, then countered, by different booksellers.

 

In honor of Bloomsday (June 16), here is Becky’s defense of the eponymous Leopold Bloom and Ulysses.

James Joyce’s Ulysses has been deemed unreadable and offensive by multitudes, and yet it remains an important classic. It took Joyce almost a decade to write Ulysses and it is often considered to be his greatest work. The book takes place over the course of one full day and features the “Odyssey” of the main character, Leopold Bloom, as well as some accounts of the life of Stephen Dedalus, the main character of Joyce’s previous work, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.  “If Ulysses is not worth reading,” Joyce declared, “Life is not worth living.”

Each section of Ulysses is written in a different writing style, each of which is reflective of the content of that particular episode. It shifts from realism to modernism and even contains a section composed entirely of newspaper titles. The style reflects the characters and the situation as well as strengthens the overall plot and ideas presented. For example, when Stephen Dedalus (the young “poet”) is the central character of a chapter, it is filled with literary allusion and analysis while the sections that focus on Leopold Bloom contain more common thoughts and observations that easily reflect a middle-aged man living in turn-of-the-century Dublin.

Despite the obvious and consistent references to Homer’s Odyssey, Ulysses is often attacked for being a work with no central ideas or, worse, a mere satire on the honor and heroism found in the Odyssey. However, it is more than an extensive criticism on heroism. The work is revolutionary because Leopold Bloom is virtuous in the traditional sense, but Joyce does not glorify the main character and does not overlook his less-than-noble qualities. This true realism only brings the reader closer to the characters and makes the entire work far more believable. The personalities that populate the pages are not larger-than-life heroes; they are starving artists, lonely middle-aged men, and overly romantic young girls. Ulysses shows that there is life beyond standard greatness that is often intriguing, intelligent, and spirited and presents it in a perfectly honest and perhaps even shocking way.

Ulysses is another “portrait” by Joyce, but it is a portrait of a day and the unconventional heroes that reside within it.