Discussion: Books You Love to Re-Read

Some books are so terrible they probably never should be read.  Some books are good but only really deserve a once-over.  Great books deserve multiple re-reads.  And since peoples’ tastes in books are so different, everyone has a different book that they love to read again and again and again.  I know I have several!

One of the books that I like to read at least once a year is The Return Man by V. M. Zito.  It’s such an unique, highly emotional zombie apocalypse story that every single time I read it I discover something new that I hadn’t noticed before.  The same goes for the entire Newsflesh trilogy by Mira Grant; you can’t help but love Shaun and Georgia.  One of my new favourite re-reads is Aranya by Marc Secchia because the fantasy world he created is so vivid that like the previous books, you discover something new every single time that you hadn’t noticed before.  I’ve re-read the entire Harry Potter series about once every two or three years since I was 9 years old (although when I was 9 not all of the books were out).  And I think I’ve re-read Diantha Jones’ Oracle of Delphi series at least three or four times since finishing the third and latest book in anticipation of the fourth book coming out soon.  I’m also currently re-reading A Song of Ice and Fire.

So what I want to know now is this: What are some of your favourite books to read over and over again?  Why?

Night by Elie Wiesel

Night by Elie Wiesel(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

Night is a work by Elie Wiesel about his experience with his father in the Nazi German concentration camps at Auschwitz and Buchenwald in 1944–1945, at the height of the Holocaust and toward the end of the Second World War. In just over 100 pages of sparse and fragmented narrative, Wiesel writes about the death of God and his own increasing disgust with humanity, reflected in the inversion of the father–child relationship as his father declines to a helpless state and Wiesel becomes his resentful teenage caregiver.

Penetrating and powerful, as personal as The Diary Of Anne Frank, Night awakens the shocking memory of evil at its absolute and carries with it the unforgettable message that this horror must never be allowed to happen again.

When you read about the Holocaust, Elie Wiesel is one of those survivor names that keeps cropping up again and again because of the amazing things he went on to do later in life.  While I was researching his story I noticed that there are actually two versions of Night: one from 1982, translated by his publisher at the time and another one from 2006 that was translated by his wife (who translated most of his fictional novels).  I decided to read the most recent one because of the introduction where he mentioned that he was now able to correct and revise some of the details that had gotten lost in translation in the first edition.  Because of that introduction I believe this one is the more faithful translation when compared to the original Yiddish manuscript and decided to read this 2006 version.

One of the things that really struck me about Night when I started reading it is the sparse but beautiful prose Elie Wiesel uses.  He describes things in a way that ensures they’re ingrained in your memory but never really gets flowery about it.  I can still picture the scene of the ghetto emptying day by day until Elie’s street is called for transport.  I can picture the horrific burning ditch that greeted Elie and his father when they arrived at Auschwitz and learned the truth: their denial of the horrors a fellow townsman had warned them of might very well be their undoing.  It’s really stark prose and it drives home the horrors of all that he witnessed in his months-long stay at various concentration and work camps, first at Auschwitz, then Buna and then to Buchenwald where he and the rest of the prisoners were liberated in 1945.

While the prose and descriptions are stark, you really do get a good sense of his mindset as he adjusts psychologically to his situation.  At first he’s still pretty naive and horrified by what he witnesses but by the end you can tell that he’s lost some of that humanity, that sense of the importance of every single life.  And who wouldn’t, given the circumstances?  He takes his readers on a journey through the loss of his faith in a benevolent, almighty God and how his father kept him alive for so long despite Elie’s lack of will to live at times.  It really does hit you hard; this little book of just 115 pages packs one heck of a punch and it does leave you wondering what sort of humans could carry out such horrible deeds.  There aren’t really any adequate words to describe my feelings after reading this book but it’s a combination of sadness, happiness, numbness, despair, confusion and hope.  I think every reader will have a different emotional experience.

If you’re the sort of person who is interested in history in general, but particularly in survivors’ accounts of the Holocaust, Night is definitely a must-read.  Elie Wiesel is a master writer who can pack such an emotional punch in so few words that sometimes his story will leave you breathless.  I can’t recommend this book enough.

I give this book 5/5 stars.

Amazon     Barnes and Noble     Goodreads

Cover Reveal: Sarai’s Fortune by Abigail Owen

Sarai’s Fortune
by Abigail Owen
Designed by: Debbie Taylor (The Wild Rose Press)Genre: Paranormal RomanceSeries: Shadowcat Nation, #2

Release Date: May 13, 2015


Zac Montclair’s first priority is to protect his people. With the escalating war between factions of shifters over land and resources, he has agreed to an alliance between his polar bears and the Shadowcat Nation of cougar shifters. But the treaty comes with a condition…he must accept one of their Seers into his Timik and put her under his personal protection.

Sarai Bouchard doesn’t need her supernatural gift to know that Kyle Carstairs’s obsession with controlling her ability will eventually result in her misery and demise. Her power is essential to her people’s survival, so when Kyle goes rogue, she’s sent to Zac Montclair to keep her safe. However, her visions reveal that while staying will lead to their becoming lovers, it also leads to his death. Leaving Zac will result in her own.
If Sarai can’t find a way to change the future, she will be forced to choose…save her lover or save herself.Watch the Trailer…


Award-winning paranormal and contemporary romance author, Abigail Owen was born in Greeley, Colorado, and raised in Austin, Texas. She now resides in Northern California with her husband and two adorable children who are the center of her universe.

Abigail grew up consuming books and exploring the world through her writing. A fourth generation graduate of Texas A&M University, she attempted to find a practical career related to her favorite pastime by earning a degree in English Rhetoric (Technical Writing). However, she swiftly discovered that writing without imagination is not nearly as fun as writing with it.


I’m on Pinterest Now!

At the advice of a friend who was attempting to do my ridiculously unmanageable hair I created an account on Pinterest and tried to find hairstyles that might work.  After that I went on a girly binge so now my boards are filled with dresses, hairstyles and jewelry I’m drooling over.

But more relevant to this blog, I have a special board of favourite sayings (mostly book and Game of Thrones related) and a special board of my all-time favourite books I’ve reviewed here on The Mad Reviewer.  If you’d like to follow me on Pinterest, click on this link.  And if you do follow me, I’m definitely following back any of my fellow book-lovers, if only to see how this crazy thing is supposed to work.

The Tale of the Vampire Bride by Rhiannon Frater

The Tale of the Vampire Bride by Rhiannon Frater(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

Set in the 1820s, The Tale of the Vampire Bride is sure to thrill fans of vampires of literary past with its lush, gothic atmosphere and terrifying spectacle.

All Lady Glynis Wright ever wanted was the freedom to live life as she pleased, despite her aristocratic parents’ wishes for her to marry into wealth. But her fate is far more terrible than an arranged marriage when her family becomes prisoners to one of the most fearsome and powerful vampires of all time, Count Vlad Dracula.

Imprisoned in the decrepit castle in the Carpathian Mountains, Glynis’s new life as a Bride of Dracula is filled with bloody feasts, cruel beatings, and sexual depravity. There is no hope for escape. Vlad Dracula has elaborate plans to use her familial connections in England and she has become his favored pawn. Even more terrible is the bond of blood between them that keeps Glynis tethered to his side despite her deep hatred of him.

It’s only when Vlad Dracula takes Glynis to the picturesque city of Buda on the Danube River and she meets a mysterious vampire in the darkened city streets, does she dare hope to find love and freedom.

Rhiannon Frater sure wasn’t kidding when she said that this book was ‘gothic horror’ on Goodreads.  It’s pretty bloody and it’s definitely not for the faint of heart but at the same time none of the violence is really unnecessary.  There’s always a point to it; none of it is gratuitous.  And the most important part is that it really jars the reader in the same manner that poor Glynis herself is jarred as she’s thrown into the life of an unwilling wife to one of the most famous psychopaths in history: Vlad the Impaler.

 Glynis is a pretty extraordinary woman for her time.  She really doesn’t want to get married; she really just wants to be her own woman, independent and free.  In her time that’s certainly unconventional but not an impossibility when you have wealth on your side so it’s not like she’s a stand-in for a modern woman.  No, she definitely tries to rebel within the narrow confines of society and that’s part of the reason why she runs afoul of Count Dracula and his brides once her family is killed and she is turned.  Glynis loves her independence and being raped and controlled by Dracula isn’t exactly being independent.  So as she suffers, Glynis begins to plot to gain her freedom by any means possible.  I don’t want to give too much away but let’s just say that when Dracula begins to love her in his manner (because realistically he is not the sort of man to fall in real love) it’s the beginning of the end of his reign of terror over poor Glynis and the other brides.

One of the things that struck me the in the first novel I read by Rhiannon Frater, The Last Bastion of the Living, was the complex psychology involved.  The Tale of the Vampire Bride is really no different in that it presents some pretty abnormal psychology without condoning or condemning it.  She simply portrays the characters without judgment and leaves it up to the reader to figure things out.  Is it a result of all of the trauma she’s gone through that Glynis starts to actually feel something (not love) for Dracula?  Or is it that she’s finally accepting her vampire life?  I personally think it’s a result of the trauma combined with an acceptance of her vampire life but Rhiannon Frater smartly leaves things up to the reader for them to figure out themselves.  She’s not one of these authors that tries to beat her readers over the head with the obvious stick.  Her writing is subtle and ambiguous, which is perfect for this kind of gothic tale.

I was a little hesitant about this book in the beginning because it starts off relatively slow with Glynis and her family travelling around in Transylvania to try yet again to find Glynis a husband.  But things pick up pretty quickly when they get mysteriously diverted to Dracula’s castle and meet the count himself.  After that the story involves a lot of the push-pull dynamic between Vlad and Glynis as both of them try to assert their authority.  Sometimes Dracula wins, sometimes (particularly toward the end) Glynis wins.  She learns to survive and there’s another level of intrigue dropped in when the two of them go to Buda and find that humans aren’t the only things they need to worry about.  Glynis’ journey is one of sorrow, torture and strife while at the same time it’s a story of hope, redemption and even love.  Even when the pacing itself is slow, it’s hard not to be captivated by the story itself and the amazing, memorable characters.

That’s why even if you’re not a big fan of gothic horror novels, The Tale of the Vampire Bride is worth a try.  I certainly didn’t expect to love it as much as I did and maybe you’ll surprise yourself as well.

I give this book 5/5 stars.

Amazon     Barnes and Noble     Goodreads

Lazy Sundays: The Wars to Come (Game of Thrones Episode 5.01)

Warning: spoilers ahead!

What an episode tonight, folks.  There was not much in the way of action but there’s plenty of intrigue that I’m very excited about, including some changes from the books.  So in no particular order:

1.  Go Jon Snow!  Still mopey, still defying kings.

2.  Where is Sansa going? Or rather, where is Littlefinger taking Sansa far in the west?

3.  Ooh, Lancel is now one of the Sparrows and Cersei laughed in his face when he talked about religion.  Not a good idea to laugh at zealots, Cersei…

4.  On that note, it was great to see young Cersei visiting Maggie the Frog and it introduces that all-important prophecy that will really come to haunt Cersei during the coming events.

5.  Margarey’s right: Loras better be a little more discreet about his sexual preferences.

6.  Tyrion’s going to Meereen to meet with Daenerys!  Will he meet with Ser Jorah like in the books or will the two paths collide in an entirely different way?  And will a certain mysterious character be joining Varys and Tyrion on their journey?

7.  Poor Daenerys.  Viserion and Rhaegal are totally wild and Drogon is still fully wild out in the open.  Will she crack and re-open the fighting pits at Daario’s urging or will it take a certain other man to persuade her?

So what did you guys think about the episode tonight?  Are you as excited for the rest of season 5 as I am?

Discussion: Writing About Controversial Topics

On Monday I published an article called “The Game of Thrones Rape Problem“.  I was honestly expecting death threats for daring to a) criticize a much-beloved show and b) to criticize it while being female.  Thankfully that has not been the case and it’s probably helped that my post really hasn’t received that many random views from search engines.  Controversial topics aren’t really all that new to me as a blogger, as you guys probably know from my (in)famous rants and these discussion posts.

However, I know that some bloggers deliberately avoid topics like sexual assault, race/diversity issues and gender inequality in fiction because it can bring down the wrath of the darkest corners of the internet down on your head.  I completely understand that because let’s face it: it’s really no fun getting rape or death threats from total strangers.  (Understatement of the year, I know.)  After my little confrontation with a certain author I am probably the last person to judge any blogger from shying away from controversial topics.

So what I want to discuss is this: Do you find yourself shying away from controversial topics?  If so, why?  If not, why?  And please, no judgment against fellow bloggers here.  We should all write within our comfort levels and I feel it’s important to discuss why or why not we feel safe talking about some topics but won’t touch others with a ten foot pole.

While I do talk about diversity, gender inequality and sexual assault in fiction I personally try to stay away from religion because in school I was bullied horrifically for daring to not be Roman Catholic.  I still find I have that particular hang up today, even when talking amongst family and friends because I’m so used to be told I’m going to hell for not worshipping the correct god or worshipping the correct god incorrectly.  Do you guys have any hang ups about similar topics, even in real life amongst close friends/family?