Tuesday, March 8, 2016

February Book Review

Rating System
5- Loved it! All the feels and flails. New favorite
4- Really liked it
3- Decent
2- Would not recommend.
1- Did not like.  Didn't finish. Gave book away.

The Witch of Napoli by Michael Schmiker

Rating: 2.5
Via NetGalley
Italy 1899: Fiery-tempered, seductive medium Alessandra Poverelli levitates a table at a Spiritualist séance in Naples. A reporter photographs the miracle, and wealthy, skeptical, Jewish psychiatrist Camillo Lombardi arrives in Naples to investigate. When she materializes the ghost of his dead mother, he risks his reputation and fortune to finance a tour of the Continent, challenging the scientific and academic elite of Europe to test Alessandra's mysterious powers. She will help him rewrite Science. His fee will help her escape her sadistic husband Pigotti and start a new life in Rome. Newspapers across Europe trumpet her Cinderella story and baffling successes, and the public demands to know - does the "Queen of Spirits" really have supernatural powers? Nigel Huxley is convinced she's simply another vulgar, Italian trickster. The icy, aristocratic detective for England's Society for the Investigation of Mediums launches a plot to trap and expose her. Meanwhile, the Vatican is quietly digging up her childhood secrets, desperate to discredit her supernatural powers; her abusive husband Pigotti is coming to kill her; and the tarot cards predict catastrophe.  Inspired by the true-life story of celebrated Italian medium Eusapia Palladino (1854-1918), The Witch of Napoli masterfully resurrects the bitter, 19th century battle between Science and religion over the possibility of an afterlife 

First off it took me forever and a day to get through this book. I use the Kindle app on my phone and will read a book occasionally on it. I tend to read it here and there on lunch breaks at work. The Witch of Napoli fell short for me. I started reading this back in October and finally finished it. I kept thinking something was going to happen but there was nothing really to grab you. I didn't realize/remember when I read this book that it was based on a true story. So I do think the story of Palladino's life was intriguing. I just felt like nothing happened in the book. They went from seance to seance with slightly different results. I wish I had more favorable things to say but I finished the book so that I could review it but to me, it was a waste of time.

The Cruelest Month by Louise Penny

Rating: 3.5
Welcome to Three Pines, where the cruelest month is about to deliver on its threat.
It's spring in the tiny, forgotten village; buds are on the trees and the first flowers are struggling through the newly thawed earth. But not everything is meant to return to life. . .
When some villagers decide to celebrate Easter with a séance at the Old Hadley House, they are hoping to rid the town of its evil---until one of their party dies of fright. Was this a natural death, or was the victim somehow helped along?
Brilliant, compassionate Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec is called to investigate, in a case that will force him to face his own ghosts as well as those of a seemingly idyllic town where relationships are far more dangerous than they seem.

I can't tell you enough that you should be listening to this series. The narrator has the perfect voice for these books and the stories and characters just tug at you. This is the third Inspector Gamache novel. With this one, we get a little bit more of the story with the Arnot case that's haunting Gamache. With each novel, you get to know the residents of Three Pines just a little better. Ruth is my very favorite character. She's this cranky old lady who's a famous poet. Rough around the edges but with this hidden kindness. The last two Penny novels had a part with Ruth that just kicked me in the gut.

Lottery by Patricia Wood

Rating: 4
Perry L. Crandall knows what it's like to be an outsider. With an IQ of 76, he's an easy mark. Before his grandmother died, she armed Perry well with what he'd need to know: the importance of words and writing things down, and how to play the lottery. Most important, she taught him whom to trust, a crucial lesson for Perry when he wins the multimillion-dollar jackpot. As his family descends, moving in on his fortune, his fate, and his few true friends, he has a lesson for them: never, ever underestimate Perry Crandall. 

Perry's character is so endearing.  You can't help but like him. He's that character that you want everything to work out perfectly for. That's probably why what happens with his family and how they treat and take advantage of him is so disgusting. You kind of had a sense of how Lottery was going to play out but I was happy with the ending. Lottery was one of those books that you leaves you feeling good. Like everything kind of worked out how it was supposed to.  Because his Gran took care of him and tried to teach him how to take care of his self, he ended up making good decisions. The biggest thing that I took away from this book is that someone like Perry, who society would consider dumb, was actually smarter than most people. He knew what was important in life. I ended up giving this to my manager at work to read after I was done and she really liked it too.

By Blood We Live by Glen Duncan

Rating: 3
The final battle between werewolves and vampires has an unexpected twist: love.
With twenty thousand years under his belt, Remshi is the oldest vampire in existence. He is searching for the werewolf named Talulla, who haunts his dreams as a memory from his ancient past. But he is not the only one seeking Talulla: She is being hunted by the Militi Christi, a fanatical Christian cult hell-bent on wiping out werewolves and vampires alike. Inexplicably pulled toward one another, and with no other choice, Remshi and Talulla must join forces to protect their families, fulfill an ancient prophecy and - through a love that should be impossible - ensure the survival of their species. 

This was the last book in the Werewolf trilogy. See my review for the first book, The Last Werewolf here. I listened to the previous two books so this one was a little hard for me to get into at first. Duncan's writing style is not my favorite. I found it long winded with run on sentences which were much easier to overlook in audio form. I loved the folklore surrounding the creation of vampires and werewolves. Remshi and his story were interesting. If you try and think about being 20,000 years old and what that really means, it's kind of incomprehensible.

The Strain by Guillermo Del Toro

Rating: 3.5
A Boeing 777 arrives at JFK and is on its way across the tarmac, when it suddenly stops dead. All window shades are pulled down. All lights are out. All communication channels have gone quiet. Crews on the ground are lost for answers, but an alert goes out to the CDC. Dr. Ephraim "Eph" Goodweather, head of their Canary project, a rapid-response team that investigates biological threats, gets the call and boards the plane. What he finds makes his blood run cold.
In a pawnshop in Spanish Harlem, a former professor and survivor of the Holocaust named Abraham Setrakian knows something is happening. And he knows the time has come, that a war is brewing.
So begins a battle of mammoth proportions as the vampiric virus that has infected New York begins to spill out into the streets. Eph, who is joined by Setrakian and a motley crew of fighters, must now find a way to stop the contagion and save his city - a city that includes his wife and son - before it is too late.

I've watched The Strain on FX so I kind of knew what to expect with this book. I didn't notice until writing this post that I read two vampire books this month but they could not have been anymore different. While By Blood was more of your traditional story, The Strain is told from a pandemic viewpoint.  I love end of world, Armageddon type stories either in movie or book form. I think what makes this one so interesting is that it has a lot of science to it because Eph, from the CDC, is really spearheading the resistance to the outbreak. I also think it's pretty realistic to how something like this would happen. As a citizen, you wouldn't know what was going on. The news would have events skewed to make things seem like they weren't. Once the general public realized what was going on, it would be too late. The first novel is behind where the show is right now. I started the second book this week and can't wait to see where this trilogy goes. 

Love It: Lottery, The Strain & The Cruelest Month
Leave It: The Witch of Napoli

Life According to Steph


  1. lottery sounds really interesting, adding it to my list.
    i am intrigued by that werewolf trilogy. i really hate when i switch from audio to book in a series and it doesn't work as well (or vice versa). some books just work better as audio!

  2. Lottery sounds great! I'll give that one a go.

  3. The Cruelest Month and The Blood We Live By sound intriguing to me. I love a good vampire story! I checked out The Strain but never got a chance to see it. I saw a few episodes on TV but I didn't really love it. I may need to revisit the book because I typically prefer them over the movie or TV versions.

    1. You should definitely check out the Inspector Gamache series! I like the modern day take on vampires that The Strain takes and the whole science/disease aspect of it.

  4. Lottery is on my TBR so I'm glad to hear you enjoyed it.

  5. I have Lottery on my TBR list, but haven't known anyone who has read it. I'm so glad to have read your thoughts on the book. Have a good one!

  6. Lottery sounds really good, and reading your descriptions of the character of Perry kind reminded me of the character of Wyatt in The Inverted Forest (a book I really enjoyed!). I'm adding that one!

    I'm also adding The Strain. I've never seen the TV series, but I think it's interesting that Guillermo del Toro wrote a novel. I always think of him as a screenwriter/director and not as a novelist. (He may have written more as well, but I didn't even know he'd written this one.) Pan's Labyrinth is one of my all-time favorite movies, though, and he wrote and directed that ... So how could I not give this a try?

    It sucks that The Witch of Napoli was so boring and difficult to get through. The summary made it sound really interesting (especially since it's based on someone's life!), but I have enough trouble getting through most historical fiction. I don't think I could ever make it through this book if it took you several months to read it!