Archive for March, 2011

March 22nd, 2011

Dreadfully Ever After by Steve Hockensmith

by Gwen


Say what you will, but I am a huge fan of the mashups. I thought the concept was crazy and they would never be able to mix classic literature and zombies seamlessly. Then I read Dawn of the Dreadfuls and something magical happened. Suddenly, I was something that I never thought I would be, a Jane Austen fan. I read Android Karenina and when I didn’t want to pull my hair out like I usually do with Tolstoy, became a total convert. They are like classics with a twist and I will never say no to any genre or series that attract people that usually don’t read. Think about how many people read more thanks to Harry Potter?

Because Austen never wrote a sequel to Pride & Prejudice, Steve Hockensmith was able to take Dreadfully Ever After to a whole new level. It’s a bit darker, more bleak, steeped in dreadfuls, and yet, is true to the stringent themes and mores of the Regency period.

Elizabeth Darcy nee Bennet is feeling frustrated with married life. She still loves Darcy, it’s just the standards of society requiring her to put down her katana and stop fighting dreadfuls the moment she got married. Then, horror of horrors, Darcy is bitten by one of the dastardly demons from who knows where and Elizabeth contacts Lady Catherine de Bourgh for her help.
Darcy, the love of her life, must not become a zombie. So Lady Catherine sends Elizabeth to London, in search of a rumored cure. Is Lady Catherine sending her into the lion’s den to save Darcy or as punishment? Elizabeth can’t be sure, but she goes.

Soon the Bennets are back in action, together in London and they all rise to the challenge in their own ways. I would say more, but I don’t want to spoil the surprise.

Have you tried one of the mash-ups yet? If you haven’t, what stops you?

Just so you know, Quirk Books is celebrating the release of Dreadfully Ever After with a giveaway. You just have to like the Facebook page for the book to enter.

And while I am imparting great knowledge, you should also know that Quirk sent me this book gratis. What I probably shouldn’t tell you was that I was so excited to get it that I kissed the UPS man on the cheek. Don’t tell anyone.

March 18th, 2011

Lucifer’s Tears by James Thompson

by Gwen

Lucifers Tears

Lucifer’s Tears by James Thompson

You have to like a character that describes his homeland as the ninth and innermost circle of hell, but can’t imagine himself living anywhere else. Meet Kari Vaara, a tortured Inspector in Helsinki. His face is marked with a scar from past battle, but it is the scars on his heart and mind that hurt the most and make him who he is.

His wife is pregnant. The last pregnancy, she miscarried and he blames himself. He is terrified that it is going to happen again. He has had a migraine for a year. It won’t go away. His siblings-in-law are coming from the States to help with the pregnancy. The ones he’s never met. The conclusion of his last case left nothing but bodies behind, including his partner and x-wife. The man has a lot of ghosts, just like his homeland, and therefore a lot on his mind.

Let’s add more to this poor Laplander’s plate. He is handed a horrific murder case and the politicos want him to frame an innocent man. One more thing, they want him to investigate a WWII hero for crimes against humanity and the guy just happens to have served with Kari’s grandfather. (Which means that if this hero was a bad guy, so was his granddad)

My thoughts-

There is so much to like in this sequel to Snow Angels that it is hard to know where to start. Kari Vaara is an imperfect human with his heart in the right place. Sort of like how I see myself. Don’t laugh.

Helsinki and the murder case is gritty and honestly, Thompson’s writing doesn’t make me want to visit there anytime soon. The language is graphic, the murder and ensuing investigation is horrific, violent and well, I will just say it, S&M related.

I learned a lot of Finland’s history in a way that didn’t feel forced or like learning. I like unforced learning and knew nothing of Findland’s part in WWII.

This isn’t a book for everyone. You have to be a fan of harsh, no-holds-barred noir for Lucifer’s Tears. Agatha Christie or Cozy Mystery fans need not apply. Still, I am a fan and it made for a page turner, finished it in less than a day.

Have you ever read any Finnish writers or books set in Finland? Lucifer’s Tears has left me wanting more.

Lucifer’s Tears by James Thompson

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Putnam Adult (March 17, 2011)
  • ISBN-10: 039915700X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399157004
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    March 11th, 2011

    Gated Grief by Leila Levinson

    by Gwen

    Gated Grief

    The Daughter of a GI Concentration Camp Liberator Discovers a Legacy of Trauma

    I wish that Levinson could have written this sooner, but I am grateful that I read it now.

    After the death of her father, Dr. Reuben Levinson, Leila and her brother found some horrific pictures in their fathers medical office. They were shots from the concentration camp that her father, as Captain Levinson at the time, liberated in the aftermath of WWII.

    The pictures haunted her and led her on a quest to try to understand what it meant to be a liberator. Pictures don’t do justice to what her father and other GIs faced. She needed to understand how those pictures changed the men that left hopeful and ready to fight for the freedom of all people. What she found brought her closer to her father, closer to understanding the man that told her never to cry and to just move forward, closer to answers to the questions she always wanted to ask; needed to ask, but never did.

    Levinson interviewed many liberators, attended reunions, looked back at past written histories, and finally visited the camp where her father attended victims before having a nervous breakdown in 1945. She wasn’t just searching for how being a liberator changed her father and how it effected other liberators, but what effect that change had on her childhood.

    It has been estimated that a minimum of 300,000 GIs witnessed the camps in one way or another. For the most part, none of these (mostly) men were warned or prepared for what they were going to see, they were just told to go there. What they saw, what they smelled, what they felt, is still something that many can’t talk about. Levinson noticed that many of the people she interviewed switched into third person when they were describing it. They were still trying to distance themselves from it decades later.

    A phrase that Levinson used stuck with me while I was reading and still runs through my mind at odd moments.

    “The liberators became prisoners of the camps they liberated.”

    On coming home, the liberators didn’t talk about what they saw, they seldom shared with their families. A part of them had fractured off, never to be seen again. The trauma of what they saw effected them and their children that might not have even been born yet. Most took the attitude of the time that you just have to forget and move forward. The thing is, they couldn’t forget and while they were moving forward, it was as a vastly different human being than the brightly smiling soldier that they had been when they left for the war.

    This book touched me in a personal way as well and that is why I wish that it had been written sooner. My grandfather fought in the Pacific and never talked about it. While I was always curious and wanted to ask him about his service, it was sort of an unspoken rule that I shouldn’t. When he passed away, we found pictures tucked away in an ammo box that, while not of concentration camps, were frankly, I am embarrassed to say what they depicted in detail. Why had he saved these pictures of mutilated Japanese soldiers? Why had he never talked about his experiences other than the USO dance where he met my grandmother and the time he spent on the base in New Jersey? It was as if there was this whole other person that fought in the war that we never knew.

    I wish that I had had the courage to ask him before his passing. It might have explained a lot about the person that I thought I knew, but obviously, didn’t.

    “The liberators became prisoners of the camps they liberated.”

    Gated Grief is a study of trauma. Trauma that still affects many of us as the children and grandchildren of the veterans of WWII. The book is deep, but not depressing. It left me strangely hopeful. It means that we have finally acknowledged that veterans, of all wars, are left with scars that we can’t always see and that we need to acknowledge those wounds just as we address the obvious ones.

    We have come a long way from the attitude of just putting the horrors of war behind us and moving forward. In the 40’s we weren’t prepared to deal with the psychiatric casualties of war.Then, lobotomies were the norm and around 50,000 veterans underwent the procedure. I can only hope that we are better armed now, but I am still not so sure. Levinson was able to shine a light on her upbringing, but also shined a light on an important subject for all of us.

    Gated Grief by Leila Levinson
    Hardcover: 266 pages
    Publisher: Cable Publishing; 1 edition (January 31, 2011)
    ISBN-10: 1934980544
    ISBN-13: 978-1934980545

    This book was given to my by PR by the Book, but was already on my radar because of my interest in the effects of trauma. The thoughts are my own. I have read a few books on the subject, which I am now realizing that I never reviewed here. (bad Gwen) You can read my short review of Denial: A Memoir of Terror by Jessica Stern at the Sacramento Book Review site.

    March 8th, 2011

    When the Thrill is Gone by Walter Mosley

    by Gwen






    Messy, intricately complicated, and full of boxing boxing metaphors, that is how Private Detective Leonid McGill’s life is before he even leaves his home in the morning. His wife is having an affair, but that is okay, because he is in love with someone else. His former boxing coach and the closest thing to a father figure he has is dying of cancer in his den. None of his children are biologically related to him, but he doesn’t let that stop him from loving them as if they were. No matter, McGill takes it all in stride and tries his best to right the wrongs that he did in the past.

    He knows that everybody lies, so when a beautiful woman comes into his office, plops down $12, 600 in cash on his desk and tells him that she thinks her husband is going to kill her, he knows that there is more to the story. Still, the economy has hit hard, even in the PI business, he says that he will take the case.

    Think noir with a touch of color, When the Thrill is Gone, is a sort of Sam Spade for 2011. Cynical, a shade on the dark side of legal, but ultimately a good guy, trying to do the right thing, that is what McGill offers. It isn’t as dark and disturbing as other novels you may have read, yet it still reads just as authentic without all of the sex and gore that just seems supercilious and unnecessary in other works.

    My one complaint is that the character, and I am guessing therefore author, is obsessed with height. McGill is on the short side for a man, 5’ 5.5”, and with the introduction of each and every new person in the story, he has to compare his height to theirs. Can we say Napoleon complex?

    I got over that and you will too.


    When the Thrill is Gone by Walter Mosley

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover (March 8, 2011)
  • ISBN-10: 1594487812
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594487811
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    March 5th, 2011

    1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die ~ The Series and a Confession

    by Gwen

    1001 Books


    The end of last year, I made the mistake of buying this whopper of a book and decided that I would do my best to read each and everyone of the 1001 books or die trying. My plan was never to review each and every one of them here and then fate stepped in.

    Off and on, for a year or so, a friend and I have been talking of creating a blog together that encompassed many things. She blogs about decorating, homeschooling and life with a side of humor, but wanted to reach out to more subjects. I blog about books and while I love it, I really feel stifled at times creatively. Sometimes I don’t want to be serious or critique other people’s art, I want to get back to creating my own once in a while. (Am I the only one that feels this way about book blogging at times?)

    Fast forward to January, we decided to do it. Wit Behind the Ears is a sort of a smorgasbord of life. We have touched on Decorating, Organization, Homeschooling, Art/Crafts, Cooking, and more, but a series that I started is fast becoming near and dear to my heart.  What series is that you ask? 1001 Books I’m Reading So You Won’t Die

    Not everyone makes the time in their lives to read like book bloggers do. That doesn’t mean that we can’t sneak in some awareness building book posts each week to the non-reading public. Each week, I have taken on two books from the list and encapsulated the story then told why it was on the list. Seldom to I hold back on what I really think, and that has been the bonus. It leaves me energized to write real reviews again for here and other places. I also get to share my love of the written word with people that probably wouldn’t take the time to read these classics on their own. Win-Win.

    So consider this your invitation to an irreverent look at the classics over on Wit Behind the Ears. And……if you ever feel the urge to write about something other than books, feel free to drop me a line. I have a place saved for your post as long as you keep it real and a wee bit funny.


    1001 Books I’m Reading So You Don’t Die