Taking a small break for the holidays…

So my dear readers might have noticed that no new book review posted today. That’s because I’ll be taking a tiny little break from posting for the holidays. As life at both work and home have kept me terribly busy, I unfortunately haven’t found the opportunity to actually read for any length of time.

I definitely plan on returning with the new year with new books and new reviews.

In the meantime dear readers, I would like to wish you all a happy holiday season no matter what you celebrate.

May the new year find you healthy and happy!

Unwind by Neal Shusterman

Every so often a book crosses our path that changes our world forever. No matter how we obtain it; whether it is recommended by a friend or whether we pick it up ourselves in the store, it soon earns a spot of honor on our bookshelves. I have several books like this on my own shelves. Books that I have read over the years and no matter what they continue to hold a special place in my heart.

Unwind by Neal Shusterman is one very recent addition to this small list. I happened to purchase this book on a whim simply because the blurb on the back peaked my interest. Despite being an adult, I have often found great books in the Young Adult section. To be honest, while reading Unwind, I was surprised by the fact that this was in the YA section. Because while the characters in the book might be teenagers the subject matter is definitely one that affects adults today.

The blurb on the back reads as thus:

The Second Civil War was fought over reproductive rights. The chilling resolution: Life is inviolable from the moment of conception until age thirteen. Between the ages of thirteen and eighteen,  however, parents can have their child “unwound,” whereby all of the child’s organs are transplanted into different donors, so life doesn’t technically end.

Unwind is the first book in a series, of which there are three more novels. In it we are introduced to our three main characters, Connor, Risa, and Lev. Connor is a troubled young man and has become too difficult for his parents to control. Risa is a ward of the state and has been deemed not talented enough to be kept alive. Lev is a tithe, a child born and raised for the sole purpose of being unwound. When their paths cross they must rely on each other for a chance to escape being unwound.

Unwind is a very intense book dealing with a topic that continues to spark debate. The characters, even the more minor ones, are well written. We learn of their hopes and fears and see them make what must be the most difficult of decisions. Even in the slower, less action oriented sections, there is enough to keep the story going and to keep the reader turning the page. There are several passages that really stick with a person even after finishing the book. Even now as I type this, remembering certain scenes brings a whole plethora of emotion.

I really enjoyed this book and went back to purchase the second book Unwholly.  I have high hopes that the second book will live up to the first.

Unwind (Unwind Dystology)


47 Ronin by John Allyn

It seems that every culture has their own set of stories. Be they based on actual events or made up to explain the world around them; each is unique to that part of the world. For example China has their ‘Journey to the West’, America has ‘The Headless Horseman’, and in Japan they have the 47 Ronin.

The story described in 47 Ronin by John Allyn is one of the former. The events described did actually happen; the people in the book were real – history tells us that. It tells us of Lord Asano who drew his sword against Lord Kira inside the shogun’s castle, an serious offense. We know that Asano was then condemned to commit seppuku (ritual suicide) while his lands were confiscated and the samurai – along with their families – were cast out making them ronin or masterless samurai.

History also tells us how because these ronin could not outwardly seek revenge they banded together and made a blood pact. They would bide their time and wait for Lord Kira, who was expecting the ronin to seek their revenge, to drop his guard and allow them to attack. And wait they did – for two long years – in the meantime becoming teachers, merchants or monks to further the story that they had moved on.

It was just over two years later that the ronin were able to exact their revenge. Of the original three hundred samurai that swore allegiance to Lord Asano, forty seven actually attacked Kira’s compound. They killed numerous soldiers and finally Kira himself without losing a single one of their number.

The story of the forty seven ronin has been told countless times in plays, book and movies since the actual incident in 1703. This particular novel by Allyn is one more retelling of a well known story. While specifics have been lost to time, the general story remains and Allyn fills in the gaps admirably. Well versed in the Japanese culture he brings to life a world that has not existed for many years. He resurrects long dead persons with his words and makes them leap from the page.

The reader is pulled in the world of feudal Japan and made to gape with amazement how these men were willing to put everything on the line in the name of honor.  While I have come across many versions of the famous forty seven ronin, this ranks up there with my personal favorites.

Purchase 47 Ronin

Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin

Books about death and the study of bodies has never seemed so popular as it has been of late. These last few years have seen more shows, movies, and indeed books centering on those who specialize in speaking for the dead. Terms like ‘forensics’ and ‘pathology’ are bandied about with regularity. What we can be sure of though is those who make a profession in this field are to be admired for they have learned to speak for those who no longer have a voice.

Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin takes us back to the early (very early) days of forensics and the medical examiner. We are taken back to 12th Century Cambridge in England where four children have been murdered. The Catholic townsfolk place blame on their Jewish neighbors. To save them from the mob, the Jewish townspeople are placed under the protection of the king and are sequestered in the castle there. King Henry does not particularly care for the Jews, or for anyone really, but he does care for the taxes received from the Jewish merchants.

In the hope that the science of the day will bring the killer to light, King Henry pens an entreaty to his cousin – the King of Sicily. Among the King’s subjects are the best medical experts Europe has to offer and Henry asks for the best ‘Master of the art of death’. The best the University of Salerno has to offer is chosen and sent to England. The only issue being that the best’s name is Adelia; a woman. It is not a ‘Master’ that has been sent but a ‘Mistress’.

Adelia is very good at what she does but England seems a different world than her native Sicily. In England, the Church and superstition reign supreme and a woman with her kind of knowledge was seen as dangerous. To keep from being accused of witchcraft she must tread carefully as she examines the victims and hunts for a killer.

Mistress of the Art of Death is a wonderfully researched book. The small details from the lay of the land to the way the characters speak definitely show. Adelia herself is a tough and smart woman but also has a softer side which we see as the book goes further along. The principles she holds so dear are tested as she struggles to find the heinous persons behind the crimes.

As much as I enjoyed this book, there was only one small problem I encountered. One tiny little detail that kept tickling at the back of my mind as I read. It was the main character herself: Adelia. It was how easily the townsfolk accepted her and her traveling companions. How she was able to go about alone and without chaperone. How she was able to sit alone with a man albeit in a garden and out in the open. To my understanding this kind of thing simply wasn’t done, especially if the woman was young and unmarried such as Adelia.

Putting that aside though, this was a good read. I liked the characters and the wondering of ‘who did it?’ kept me turning the page.