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Towers of Books Come Tumbling Down!

I love all kinds of books! For all my friends, I am known on GR as Alicja. I don't stick with a genre, that's boring. Instead you'll get reviews from the most random assortment of fiction and non-fiction works. It's probably due to my interests being as eclectic as my book tastes.


I'm a girlfriend-loving bisexual, science fiction geek, PC gamer, historical fiction devourer, hiker, atheist, history buff, opera lover, vegetarian, kayaker, metal and hard rock concert goer, science nerd, politics debater, world traveler, M/M romance fan, and I have the ability to transform from an adult-like hard-working professional into a screaming fangirl in five seconds flat.

Angry Little Girls by Lela Lee

Angry Little Girls - Lela Lee

Rating: 3/5

Summary: A humorous comic about five angry little girls.

Review: It was cute and funny but lacked a bit of a punch. Lee could have pushed it further. She plays up on various stereotypes and some of the strips were just ingenious but others fell a little flat. I will definitely read more though; this book was a bit of an introduction to the girls so I am hopeful she pushes the boundaries a bit in the subsequent editions. Just so we are clear, despite my negatives critiques it was funny and entertaining and put me in touch with the angry little girl inside.

Torchwood: Rift War by Paul Grist, Ian Edginton, Simon Furman

Torchwood: Rift War - Paul Grist, Ian Edginton, Simon Furman, D'Israeli

Rating: 3/5

Summary: An alien race that controls the rift attacks Earth. Why? Can Torchwood stop them in time and save the world, again? And can they trust those that offer their help?

Review: Old school Torchwood, how I missed you!

Although as expected of most that TW puts out, Ianto is again a quinary character given the odd sarcastic/funny line but being mostly ignored as a useful member of the team. However, the storyline was interesting and showed us the inner workings of the rift and aliens who actually have control over it. The dialogue was great, and the story was a page turner (although it only took me only an hour to read). The art was interesting but skewed the facial features, which bugged me just a little. . The action occurs really fast, switching between various settings, and it is sometimes hard to keep up with all the changes. Otherwise, it was fun seeing a snarky Owen and brilliant Tosh again. This is a worthwhile read for any fan of the whole team Torchwood but I don’t think someone who hasn’t seen the show would get it.

There is also an additional short story, Jetsam, at the end. It is short, sweet, and very alien-y fighting. Actually, I liked it more than the main story so it was a nice surprise.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald

Rating: 3.5/5

Summary: During the early 1920s, Nick moves to New York seeking to make big money on the booming Stock Market. He moves into a little shack next to a mansion owned by a mysterious man named Gatsby. Despite prohibition, Gatsby throws lavish parties filled with dancing and alcohol where everyone attends. After receiving an invitation to one of Gatsby’s parties, Nick gets pulled into the secret lives of those around him, finding out secrets that could ruin lives.

Review: I picked this novel up again (first time I read it for class in high school) so I could re-read it before seeing the 2013 movie in theatres.

It is hard to review a novel known as an American literary classic. People have written Masters’ thesis and Doctorate dissertations on it. Nothing I could possibly say would contribute anything new. The novel is extremely well written, the language is beautiful, and the story unfolds slowly as Fitzgerald uses his characters to provide social commentary on the superficiality and triviality of the lives of the rich in the 1920s.

The story is told from the point of view of Nick, Gatsby’s neighbor and Daisy’s cousin. He’s not one of the rich but an outsider looking into their world. Gatsby at first appears shallow, living a life of parties, drinking, and greedy attainment of vast amounts of money. Then we find out he did it all that for love. Yet, a part of me felt like he was more in love with the idea of Daisy and a life they could have had together rather than actually in love with Daisy herself.

With the exception of Nick and Gatsby, I actually hated all of the other characters, whatever their economic circumstances (they were all selfish and superficial). However, all characters, even Gatsby and Nick, seemed to have the emotional maturity of teenagers. It was still a good book but I just couldn’t shake the thought that every reaction to the events and each other reflected the maturity of someone at 15 but seemed ridiculous at 30. At the end I still felt awful for Gatsby and hated them all (except Nick) even more.

Overall, the prose is astonishing, the plot simple enough (although poignant), and the characters generally emotionally impaired. I felt like the descriptions transformed me right back into the 1920s. It was a good novel, but reading it twice in a lifetime is more than enough.

Movie Note: I saw the 2013 production of The Great Gatsby movie and it was amazing. The visual style was edgy, taking the 1920s and mixing it up with modern aesthetic. The story stayed mostly true to the book, aside from some slight additions and omissions, and carried over to marvelously to the big screen. Actually, I liked the movie better than the book (*gasp*, I know, I never expect the movie to be better than the book).

Moving In: Tales of an Unlicensed Marriage by Bruce Littlefield

Moving In - Bruce Littlefield

Rating: 3.5/5

Note: I received this book for the purpose of review from the author through a Goodreads.com giveaway. Regardless of how I obtain a book I am committed to providing uncensored thoughts in my reviews (probably because I have no idea how to censor myself).

Summary: This is a memoir of two city boys taking on a house renovation project in the country. Of course it results in entertaining misadventures.

Review: Ordinarily, this is a book that would have been thrown onto my huge to-read pile for it to get lost in the sea of books forever. I’m glad it didn’t because it is hilarious (just don’t read in public if you snort while laughing, unfortunately, taken from a personal experience since I read most of it at the beach).

I can’t come up with a better way to describe it than a modern, gay version of Lucy and Ricky Ricardo (from the 50s show I love Lucy). Bruce is cheeky with a sharp tongue that gets him into trouble and a proclivity for the dramatics. Scott is the level-headed, sensible one, well, unless he’s driving. This memoir grants us access into the first year of this city couple owning a run-down house in the county, including a peak into their neighbors, renovations, and their relationship.

Some chapters achieved genuine emotional depth. “The Gift” made my eyes tear up, the emotion was conveyed impeccably (and I loved the pictures). Some of my other favorites, “Oh, Christmas Tree” and “Coupon Clipper,” also had something profound to say though the humorous circumstances and commentary. However, I wish more chapters pushed for, well, more depth. There were some chapters where I felt the comedy served to keep the reader emotionally detached, not letting us in far enough; lacked the intimacy that would allow the reader to connect more with the personal in a meaningful way.

However, that said, this is the perfect book to spend the afternoon with curled up on the beach. It is an extremely funny, lighthearted read and the breaks between chapters give the perfect excuse to go for a swim or pick up some ice-cream before diving back into the memoir. It is definitely worth picking up.

Star Trek: Countdown to Darkness by Roberto Orci, Mike Johnson, David Messina

Star Trek: Countdown to Darkness - Roberto Orci, Mike Johnson, David Messina

Rating: 3/5

Summary: Filler story in between the 2009 and 2013 Star Trek movies.

Review: I read this before watching the movie but wanted to wait to write the review until after seeing it. This comic contained lots of good foreshadowing for the movie (I also think I figured out the general premise for the next movie, and I’m sure there will be another one). Also, I liked the way it handled relationships between Spock & Kirk and Spock & Uhura (again, more foreshadowing).

However, the story as a standalone was just decent. So as not to spoil, let’s just say that the actions of the “bad guy” didn’t seem that rational; he could have done so much more if he really wanted to help if he had, uh, used his resources better. But I’ve come to not expect logic from these new Star Treks (whether movies or comics) and just enjoy the action-y goodness (which this comic was filled with) and the prettiness of Spock (yes, I know, I’m being very shallow). Still, TNG and the original Star Trek (and crush-worthy Seven of Nine) are still my favorites.

If It Ain't Love by Tamara Allen

If It Ain't Love - Tamara Allen

Rating: 3.5/5

Summary: During the Great Depression a reporter, Whit, meets Peter, a man whose fall from riches poses a mystery he can’t ignore.

Review: The first half that sets up the mystery is interesting and actually well written which surpassed my expectations; the descriptions are vivid and interactions between characters natural. The second half fell into the romance genre cliché but that was to be expected. The short story gives us a very sappy and sweet ending but sometimes we all need an uncomplicated happily ever after.

Torchwood: The Lost Files (Radio Drama Box Set) -

The House of the Dead review:


I am so, so torn about reviewing this one. I love that we get one more look at Ianto's past and get 'the' moment between Jack and Ianto. It was sweet and sad and made me cry... and yet... the plot holes to keep Ianto dead were just so huge. I know they didn't want to bring him back but they could have. Why, oh, why did they need anyone to remain back with those rocks? They could could have just left them and ran... Five stars for great emotional moments and adding some great info on Ianto's past. Four stars given because, if Goss wasn't mandated to keep Ianto dead by the powers that be we could have had Ianto back.

The Charioteer - Mary Renault
"It's not what one is, it's what one does with it."
The Charioteer - Mary Renault
"I wanted someone to follow, I wanted him to be brave. But he wants to be brave for me; and no one can do that."
The Charioteer - Mary Renault
"You mustn't get so upset about what you feel, Spud. No one's a hundred per cent consistent all the time. We might like to be. We can plan our lives along certain lines. But you know, there's no future in screwing down all the pressure valves and smashing in the gauge. You can do it for a bit and then something goes. Sometimes it gets s that the only thing is just to say, 'That's what I'd like to feel twenty-four hours a day; but, the hell with it, this is how I feel now."
The Charioteer - Mary Renault
"He kept telling me I was queer, and I didn't like it. The word, I mean. Shutting you away, somehow; roping you off with a lot of people you don't feel much in common with, half of whom hate the other half anyway, and just keep together so that they can lean up against each other for support."

The Charioteer by Mary Renault

The Charioteer - Mary Renault

Rating: 4.5/5

Summary: Laurie Odell, injured during World War II, is transferred to a veterans hospital. There he meets and falls in love with a Quaker Hospital attendant, Andrew Raynes, an innocent young man who hasn’t figured himself out yet. To complicate matters fate brings back into his life an old school friend, Ralph Lanyon, who is familiar with the pitfalls of being gay during that era and also develops feelings for him. Laurie, healing from his injury and at the crossroads of his life, must now make choices that will have a profound impact on his future.

Review: Woven within this modern love story are references to Greek mythology and Plato’s Phaedrus showing that the human experience, especially the experience of love, transcends time and culture. Renault uses her lyrical style of writing to pack symbolism, hidden meanings, and innuendo into each page of the text. She reveals the hidden world of homosexual relationships during World War II filled with interpersonal drama. It is also a novel of self-discovery and finding ones place in the world, especially when the discovery leads to a moral dilemma and criminality (as it was at the time). The three main characters are at very different points in their lives at the start of the novel. Laurie is at a point right between discovery of why he feels different and acceptance of himself. Ralph is comfortable in, knowledgeable about, and has experience with different facets of homosexual relationships and community. Andrew is completely blind about his inclinations and is just beginning to realize he is different. Not only is Renault able to show a whole spectrum of experience through these three characters but the story takes on a life of its own as their three lives collide and intertwine. It is an amazing novel, don’t let the four stars fool you, but after reading the magnificence that are some of her other works, this one doesn’t seem as refined as her later novels. However, as I said, still completely and utterly brilliant.

As Meat Loves Salt (Harvest Original) - Maria McCann
"I followed him up the stairs. I was a fornicator, of unnatural appetite, in thrall to an Atheist. I repeated the words in my head and tried to feel the shock of them, but they remained strange and cruel, far removed from Ferris and me. It was simpler to say I was in love."

As Meat Loves Salt by Maria McCann

As Meat Loves Salt (Harvest Original) - Maria McCann

Rating: 4.5/5

Summary: Born into nobility, Jacob Cullen was reduced to servant status after his father died. Years later he, and his two brothers, are living relatively comfortably as house servants. Jacob is also about to be wedded to a woman he loves. However, his past catches up with him when he realizes he was seen killing a man and the law is after him to bring him to justice. This leads to a series of events where, while battling his inner daemons, he creates a path of destruction through the lives of everyone he meets, strangers as well as those he loves.

Review: I loved and hated this novel at the same time. The back cover says that this is a dark erotic (nothing too graphic and not that much either) tale but it really is so much more. McCann weaves the dark and violent with sweet and innocent brilliantly. Jacob is really twisted; he has anger management issues and doesn’t seem to be able to control himself when emotions take over. And yet as he goes through life hurting people, strangers as well as those he loves, I couldn’t help but cheer for him and hope and beg of others for forgiveness (and a happy ending). What makes this book great is also what kept frustrating me. The destruction he leaves behind is painful, even revolting and he seems to keep repeating the same mistakes over and over again. It is like a train wreck that you see coming, over and over, and each time you are powerless to stop it and yet, yet you can’t stop watching.

McCann has a wonderful way with words and seems to grasp realistically a way of speaking in 17th century England. The book is long but beautifully written (each word as necessary the others around it), the words seem to flow of the page so it doesn’t take too long to get through it. She is one of those authors that can transport you into another time and place, straight into the lives of these characters.

Cry to Heaven by Anne Rice

Cry to Heaven - Anne Rice

Rating: 4/5

Summary: Marc Antonio “Tonio” Treschi, a son of a Councillor of Venice in the 18th century, leads a life of comfort while minding his tutors and taking care of his mother who seems to suffer from depression. However, as he grows up he uncovers family secrets that veer his destiny from following his father’s footsteps into a world both amazing and terrifying, and resembling nothing of the future he had imagined; a world that could build him up or destroy him, a world where his path merges with Guido Maffeo, a castrato who lost his voice years ago and places his hopes and dreams into the hands of others.

Review: This is a hard book to review. I have read many of Rice’s vampire books about 10 to 15 years ago and loved them. Here her writing isn’t as refined (or maybe I just have years more experience reading and writing and it never was as refined as it seemed back in high school/college). Honestly, the first 100 pages bored (even annoyed) me; many were long winded descriptions that felt uninspired. What kept me going were the flashes of great potential brewing within her characters. And on that account she doesn’t disappoint. The more that was revealed about Tonio and Guido, the more I fell in love with them. Their fears and dreams, defeats and successes are brilliantly interwoven into their developing personalities. The drama of their lives evolves in bits and pieces and we don’t see the entire picture until the very end. And what an ending! In contrast to the shaky and bland start, the ending was so wonderfully brilliant it made reading the novel (and struggling through the rough parts) completely worth it. Overall, an amazing story with memorable leading characters (and some memorable secondary characters) and a great plot although it could have been 100 pages shorter and the novel wouldn’t have suffered for it. Just have patience at the beginning (skip some pages if you must) for a heart wrenching, bittersweet payoff.

The God Delusion - Richard Dawkins
"Do not indoctrinate your children. Teach them how to think for themselves, how to evaluate evidence, and how to disagree with you."