Thursday, June 17, 2010

And the Winner is...

First, a big thank you to all of you who entered the giveaway!  The winner of Frankenstein  Book One: Prodigal Son by Dean Koontz is...

BookMarc Blog Pants!


Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Chateau d'If: Island Fortress

"...the sudden appearance of this strange shape, this prison shrouded in such deep terror, this fortress which for three centuries has nourished Marseille with its gloomy legends, had the same effect as the spectacle of the scaffold on a condemned man."
So describes Alexadre Dumas of the island prison in which protagonist Edmond Dantes is incarcerated in The Count of Monte Cristo.  The novel made the island fortress famous, but behind the legend lies the truth of the "terrible" Chateau d'If.

Lying on the island of If off the coast of Marseille, France, the Chateau d'If was constructed in 1524 under the rule of Francis I.  Marseille was annexed by Francis and the fortress was erected as a means to "protect" the new province.  However, it is thought that the island fortress served more to discourage any uprisings from the city against its new ruler than to keep it safe from harm.  In truth, the stronghold was poorly constructed and did not see any combat - from foreign shores or otherwise.

In the late 17th century, the fort was converted to a state prison into which protestants and politicians thrown when the political tide of France flowed against them.  It has since been demilitarized and is now a popular tourist attraction of Southeastern France.

Note:  Although this video shows signs of the cells of Edmond Dantes and "The Man in the Iron Mask", there is no record of these individuals having been incarcerated in the Chateau.

And so, in stark contrast to the horror that Dumas pours into Chateau d'If in The Count, the true story is quite benign.  Although one may be disappointed at the lack of spirits haunting the stone walls, it serves as an excellent example of how an author can spark the imagination  of his or her readers.  Stay tuned for more spotlights on the places and people of The Count of Monte Cristo!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Book Review: Feed, by Mira Grant

Title:  Feed
Author:  Mira Grant
Genre:  Science fiction / Horror
Rating:  5 out of 5 zombie bloggers

The world has become infected with a virus that turns people into shambling bags of viral flesh, while a group of young bloggers cover the recent presidential election.  Feed proves to be a thorough imagining of the post-infection world.

In Mira Grant's debut novel Feed, we enter the scene some twenty years after a rogue virus began turning people and animals into zombie-like creatures.  This event, known as the Rising, has left the world in shock.  Humanity has begun to adapt, like it always does, but zombies are an ever-present threat to the citizens of the world.

Feed focuses on a group of 20-something year old bloggers who grew up in the chaotic years after the Rising.  However, these aren't your normal bloggers.  Made up of news reporters, poets, and "Erwins" (individuals who go out and make the news by poking zombies with sticks), these young adults have licenses for journalism as well as firearms.  They are fortunate enough to have been chosen to report on one politician's campaign to the White House.  If only they knew the trouble they were getting into...

This novel is written in first person perspective and is interlaced with excerpts from the main characters' blogs.  This alone is a fresh breath in the horror genre.  The way in which Grant writes her characters allows the reader to truly connect with them.  You never get the feeling that any of the characters are just placed in the novel to become zombie food; each one has a unique perspective of the world they find themselves in.  The dialogue is at times hilarious, and at others, grave.

It is true that Grant's world is full of zombies.  However (and this is the true selling point of the novel), Feed is not about zombies.  It is about the characters.  At one point in the novel, Grant's protagonist writes:
"The zombies are here, and they’re not going away. But they’re not the story. They were for one hot, horrible summer at the beginning of the century, but now they’re just another piece of the way things work. They did their part. They changed everything."
This sums up how Grant treats her world.  Although there are moments of blistering action and horror, the zombies take the back seat to the loveable characters the author has crafted.  If you were ever on the fence about reading a horror novel, Feed is a great place to jump in.

Feed is also filled with a bundle of science fiction elements in the form of the technology that had to have been invented after the Rising.  Blood testing is a big deal, as it is sometimes the only way to determine who is turning into a zombie and who isn't.  Grant also brings up other things that one may not think of when they think of a zombie-filled world such as home owner's insurance.  Imagine how much your rates increase if you live in a heavily infected zone!

The thing that kept bothering me about Feed was the age of the main characters and how bloggers seemed to have replaced the main stream media.  Although it is admirable to take this route, I couldn't help but feeling that it would be easier for professional news casters to begin blogging than it would be for twenty-year-old's to go out into the field and gain acceptance in the political arena.  With that being said, Grant's approach shows a stunningly optimistic an appreciated point of view of the younger generation.

Finally, a quick note.  Because I listened to this novel on audiobook, I feel that I need to comment on that aspect.  I have never been able to tolerate audiobooks as they could never keep my attention.  However, the narrators (Paula Christensen and Jesse Bernstein) as well as the direction were AMAZING.  If you enjoy audio books, this is definitely one to listen to.

Feed measures up to all of my expectations of a science fiction / horror novel.  Read this book!

5 out of 5 zombie bloggers!

Alphabetical Listing of Reviews



Barnes, Jonathan - The Somnambulist


Crichton, Michael - The Sphere


Danielewski, Mark Z. - House of Leaves




Gaiman, Neil - Anansi Boys
Gaiman, Neil - Neverwhere
Gaiman, Neil - Sandman (Issues 1-20)
Goodman, William - The Princess Pride
Grahame-Smith, Seth - Abraham Lincoln:  Vampire Hunter
Grant, Mira - Feed




Jennings, Gary - Aztec



Lawhead, Stephen R. - Hood
Laxer, Mark - The Monkey Bible
Lynch, Scott - The Lies of Locke Lamora


Martin, George R. R. - A Game of Thrones
Martin, George R. R. - Fevre Dream
Matheson, Richard - I Am Legend
Moers, Walter - The 13 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear




Palma, Felix J. - The Map of Time
Powers, Tim - The Anubis Gates



Rothfuss, Patrick - The Name of the Wind


Sanderson, Brandon - Elantris
Sanderson, Brandon - Warbreaker 
Sanderson, Brandon - The Way of Kings
Sebold, Alice - The Lovely Bones
Simmons, Dan - The Terror
Stoker, Bram - Dracula





Wells, H.G. - The Time Machine
Wells, H.G. - The War of the Worlds




Lions and Men Review Policy

If you are an author or publisher and would like to submit a request for a review or otherwise wish to contact me, feel free to email me at

What I Will Review: I am predominantly interested in the genres of science fiction, fantasy, and horror. I may, however, consider other genres such as historical fiction and literary fiction.  I will not accept offers to review an ebook.

Where I Will Post Reviews: All reviews that I write are posted on Lions and Men and  I will also post links to these reviews on and

Time Frame for Reviews: As I am currently enrolled full time in graduate school, it is unlikely that I will be able to conform to any sort of time line. I read in my free time, and post reviews upon completion of a book.

My Reviews: My reviews include a quick summary of the book in question with the goal of setting up content to discuss later on. I will do everything in my power to avoid spoilers. The review section of the post includes my honest opinion of the book. It will asses writing style as well as content.

Recent reviews invariably include a photo of the cover of the book, a link to the author’s website (if applicable), and a link to the book on Please note that I am NOT an Amazon affiliate, and only link to Amazon to serve as a starting point for readers to research the book.

Rating Criteria: Books will be rated on a scale of 1 to 5. I reserve the right to split ratings into .5’s, .25’s and .125’s as I see fit. The numeric rating vaguely represents:
  • 1: Not recommended.
  • 2: Many things missing or sub-par.
  • 3: Decent. Some elements may have been disappointing.  May or may not be worth reading depending on your tastes
  • 4: Well written and worth reading.  Recommended
  • 5: Excellent book. Strongly recommended.  Worth picking up and reading again (something I rarely do).
Other Opportunities: I also love to participate in other events such as blog tours, author interviews, and author guest posts.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Author Interview - Mira Grant, author of Feed

Hi Folks!  Today is an exciting day here at Lions and Men.  I am hosting my first author interview!  And I am so happy it is with an author of a book that I absolutely loved, Feed.  Read on to get the scoop behind the zombies, technology, and politics of Mira Grant's debut novel.

Lions and Men:  The zombies that are featured in Feed seem to combine classic mythology with new elements of horror.  Where did you find the inspiration for your "walking dead"?
Mira Grant:  Too many Romero movies, too many re-reads of THE HOT ZONE, and too many arguments about running vs. shambling zombies.  I really love some of the horrible things that viruses can do, and wanted to play with them more.

LM:  The majority of the main characters in your novel are young adults (in their twenties).  What made you decide to go with a younger cast of characters?
MG:  It was very important to me that my core cast be born after the Rising, and that the Rising be recent enough that it was still very fresh in the memory of the generation that came before them.  That sort of dictated the age of my protagonists.

LM:   I noticed that Feed is not your typical zombie horror novel as it tends to focus more on the characters, technology, and politics of the world you create than it does on decapitation and flame throwers.  Could you explain why you chose to put the zombies on the back burner?
MG:   No, because it wasn't really a choice so much as just the way the story developed.  Unless mankind falls completely and winds up living in tiny, isolated compounds, I think that zombies are always eventually going to wind up on the back burner in this sort of setting.  Plus, my main characters weren't stupid.  They weren't going to go out there more than they had to.

LM:   What's next for you?  I understand that Feed is part of a trilogy.  Could you give us any information about the sequel?
MG:  DEADLINE will be coming out in May 2011.  And...that's really about all I can say, since not everyone has read FEED.  It's a fun book.  I like it a lot.  It goes much deeper into the science and medical technology behind the zombie menace.  And there are bulldogs.

Thank you very much for your time and willingness to share, Mira!  Your novel is truly unique amongst others of the genre.

Be sure to come back tomorrow for the full review of Feed.  I hope you enjoyed this interview, I know I did!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Book Review - Warbreaker, by Brandon Sanderson

Title:  Warbreaker
Author:  Brandon Sanderson
Genre:  Fantasy
Rating:  4.5 out of 5 princesses

In Brandon Sanderson's standalone fantasy epic Warbreaker, we are treated to action, adventure, romance, and a large helping of political intrigue.  Warbreaker may seem like standard fantasy fare from a distance, but there are many elements that set it apart from the rest of the genre.

Warbreaker tells the tale of a strong militaristic nation called Hallendren and a small peaceful agricultural country called Idris.  Many years before this tale takes place, a great conflict led to Idris being exiled and a peace treaty being formed:  The ruler of Idris was to send his daughter to wed the terrible king of Hallendren once she came of age.  The time has come, and two princesses of Idris find themselves in the bustling metropolis of Hallendren - where colors, magic, and terrible plots abound.

With Warbreaker, Sanderson again shows off is fantasy chops.  He crafts a truly unique magical system for this novel that centers on making inanimate things come alive by using one's own life force.  Above all of this is the pantheon of Hallendren gods and goddesses:  individuals who have died and were reborn into divine beings.  There is a lot of magic in Warbreaker, but it all comes across as a neatly contained package.  The way that the system works makes sense, and there is predictability in its abilities and limitations (limitations being a good thing in this case - these powerful beings are not perfect).

Sanderson also seems to have a ball with the colorful world he has created.  Unlike his previous standalone, Hallendren is depicted as a wild city of color and pleasure.  There is an "anything goes" mentality to the capital city that contrasts greatly with the stark practicality of the princesses of Idris.  The colorful scenes make the descriptions in the novel a lot of fun to read.

Balancing out the beautiful scenery are the characters of Warbreaker.  At the center of it all are the two princesses.  Through a sudden change of plans, it is the brash outspoken girl who winds up married to the king and the polite and courteous one who is forced to wander the streets and try to rescue her sister.  Throughout the novel, the development of these characters is astounding and refreshing.  There are also two humorous mercenaries, a god who only wants to goof off, and a mysterious assassin that wields a black sword.

At the heart of Warbreaker are the political games that one expects from Sanderson, and although there are many action sequences, the intrigue of politics is obviously where the author shines.  Twists and turns abound - some expected, some not.  The story will definitely leave you guessing.

There are, of course, some ways in which the novel comes up short.  First, the pacing is a bit off in places.  The first two thirds of the novel feels very slow and deliberate, while the last third feels quite rushed.  It is as though Sanderson started out writing Warbreaker as a series, but then decided half way through to wrap things up in one volume instead.  I also would have liked a little more time to have been spent on certain characters' back stories.

Negativity aside, Warbreaker is a great read, whether you are a fan of fantasy or political dramas.  Definitely worth the read!

4.5 out of 5 princesses!

P.S.  Make sure you check out Brandon Sanderson's official website.  You can even download a PDF of the entire novel!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Not a Teaser Tuesday

Warning: This is NOT a Teaser Tuesday post.  First of all, it isn't even Tuesday.  But the following quote is neither random nor one sentence long.  Every so often, an author is able to break from the stereotypes of a genre and deliver a transcendent piece of wisdom with his or her writing.  I believe that the following quote is an example of one of these times.  From Feed, written by Mira Grant, a novel about zombies and bloggers, comes a starlingly sharp and unapologetic analysis of the state of the world we find ourselves in:

"We are a nation accustomed to being afraid.  If I'm being honest, not just with you, but with myself, it’s not just the nation and it’s not just something we’ve grown used to.  It’s the world, and it’s an addiction.  People crave fear.  Fear justifies everything.  Fear makes it okay to have surrendered freedom after freedom until our every move is tracked and recorded in a dozen databases the average man will never have access to.  Fear creates, defines, and shapes our world and without it, most of us would have no idea what to do with ourselves.  Our ancestors dreamed of a world without boundaries while we dream new boundaries to put around our homes, our children, and ourselves.  We limit our potential day after day in the name of a safety that we refuse to ever achieve.  We took a world that was huge with possibility and we made it as small as we could.  Feeling safe yet?"

Stay tuned for my full review of Feed, as well as an interview with Mira Grant.

Friday, June 4, 2010

More Books (Just What I Need)

Hi folks.  In a couple of months, I will be shipping off to Massachusettes to start the four most busy years of my life.  The last things I need are more books thrown on to my TBR pile that I won't get to, so of course, I took a trip to Borders and the library this afternoon.

Ghost Story, by Peter Straub.  A classic horror novel about a group of men who are haunted by their past evil deeds.  I stumbled across this one among the $1.00 shelves in the library. 

The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas.  Another classic, this one an epic tale of adventure and revenge.  Written in the 1800's by the same man famous for The Three Musketeers, I have been thinking about picking this one up for a while.  I loved the movie, and I finally snapped when someone at BEA mentioned reading it.  I'm in!

I am on vacation this week, and I can't wait to catch up on all of my reading.  Expect reviews of Feed and Warbreaker soon!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Sneak Peak! The Fabulous Beekman Boys on Planet Green

As you may have read in my post regarding the BEA, I was recently offered The Bucolic Plague for review, a memoir about two city guys who decide to completely change their lives in order to own and operate a farm.  As it turns out, that is only half of the story.

You can also watch the story play out in the new series coming to Planet Green, The Fabulous Beekman Boys.  This documentary/comedy follows the crazy lives of Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell (the latter being the author of The Bucolic Plague) as they stumble their way through learning the ropes of the farming profession.  Check out the official trailer here.

I was able to get a sneak peak of the first couple of episodes, and I thought it would be fun to share my first impressions with you!  First of all, what Brent says in the trailer is true:  The couple really doesn't know anything about farming.  This is one of the things that makes the show so funny.  They bring in an expert (Farmer John) to help them manage the farm, and the relationship between the three of them is something that keeps you on your toes, especially when Farmer John gives Brent a look of death when he is told to do extra chores (seriously, poor guy).

Of course there are the requisite Odd Couple dynamics:  Brent is the up tight neat freak and Josh is the easy-going fun-loving one.  Although this makes some of the show a little too familiar, the boys' relationship is always apparent under it all - whether they are arguing or apologizing - which makes the series stand out.

The first couple of episodes serve to set up the scene, and we follow the duo as they buy pigs, host a party on their farm, and worry over their llama, Polkaspot.

As with all shows of this nature, I really have to wonder what is real and what is staged.  Especially the fact that the Boys' enormous mansion, farm, and business is seemingly only supported by Farmer John.  One would think that would be too much work for one man.  Brent and Josh also seem to get into a fight, realize that their relationship is more important, and make up in each neat, 21 minute episode.  However unrealistic it may be, The Fabulous Beekman Boys proves to be a humorous romp through the pigpen.  You can check it out on Planet Green on Wednesday, June 16th.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Book Review - The Anubis Gates, by Tim Powers

Title:  The Anubis Gates
Author:  Tim Powers
Genre:  Science Fiction
Rating:  3.75 out of 5 body-snatching werewolves

The cover of The Anubis Gates touts Powers' novel as a "classic of time travel".  Between this statement and the less-than-subtle inclusion of Egyptian themes, I became hooked and brought the book home.  Does it measure up to expectations?  Yes and no.

The Anubis Gates follows the life of Brendan Doyle as he meets up with an eccentric millionaire and travels back to 1810 to watch a speech made by author/poet Samuel Coleridge.  In so doing, Doyle gets involved with bands of murderous street beggars and ancient Egyptian sorcerers.

In short, The Anubis Gates is so packed to the brim with science fiction and fantasy elements that Powers is sometimes unable to juggle them all well.  My favorite thing about time travel stories is how the characters' muddling in the past affects their present.  And although this can be seen by the end of the book, I was less than impressed with the "time" element for most of it.  The main character time traveled, yes, but then the novel seemed to switch over to simple misadventures in 19th century London.  Instead of going heavy into time travel, Powers introduces theories such as Egyptian sorcery, cloning, and body-snatching werewolves.

Throughout all of these crazy plot points, the character of Brendan Doyle develops in a mostly predictable pattern (preoccupied academic learns that it is better to live life rather than study it) and the villains just don't feel evil enough.

In reading The Anubis Gates, I was certain that I was going to give it a rating of 3 or under.  However, in the end, I was pleased with how all of the seemingly disjointed SFF elements were brought together.  Some of the plot points were predictable, but that didn't make them any less fun to read about.  Ultimately, I couldn't decide on either a 3.5 or a 4 rating for this one, so I averaged them.

Is The Anubis Gates an epic knock-your-socks-off time travel adventure?  Not quite.  Although a fun read, there were too many ideas to sift through to make any one shine.  This one may or may not be worth the time, depending on what you are expecting.

3.75 out of 5 body-snatching werewolves

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Giveaway: Frankenstein (Book One: Prodigal Son), by Dean Koontz

Good evening!  The time has once again come to give away some SFF gold to the blogging community!  This time up for grabs is a like-new paperback copy of Frankenstein, Book One:  Prodigal Son written by Dean Koontz and Kevin J. Anderson.  Check out the summary of the novel listen on Koontz's website:
"Two centuries after Victor Frankenstein created a man from dead tissue and the power of a lightning bolt, a series of brutal killings are occurring in New Orleans, and the killer is taking body parts. Detectives Carson O’Connor and Michael Maddison are on the case, but they’re about to find out that these killings are linked to something far more sinister than they could ever imagine. . .and that the man once known as Victor Frankenstein has defied death and begun a new mission to replace mankind with a race entirely of his own creation."
Also, click here for a snippet of audio!

I read this novel when it first came out, and was very impressed.  It takes Mary Shelly's classic tale of horror and spins it into a Science Fiction Murder Mystery (SciFiMurMy?).  But of course, there has to be rules for these sorts of things!
  • This giveaway is for one like-new (slightly worn from one reading and years of shelf time) copy of the first novel in Dean Koontz's Frankenstein trilogy, Prodigal Son.
  • It will run from Tuesday, June 1st to Wednesday, June 16th.
  • The winner will be chosen at random and announced on Thursday, June 17th.
  • Please, only those residing in the United States will be considered, as international shipping scares me.
You can do any of the following to gain entries into this giveaway!  If you don't mind, just comment once on this post and list everything you are going to do (I don't need multiple posts per entrant).
  • +1 Entry:  Post a comment on this post with your e-mail address.
  • +1 Entry:  In that post, suggest a novel that I may like to read, and why.
  • +3 Entry:  Become a follower, or tell me if you already follow Lions and Men.
  • +1 Entry:  Spread the word!  Slap a link to this post on your Twitter page, Facebook, blog, whatever.  I'll give you +1 Entry for each thing you do, so go crazy!  Please also leave links to these things in your comment, so I can check out the sweet sweet word spreading.
Good luck everyone!