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review 2017-06-12 13:11
The history of Bulgaria was interesting, but the story was a bit long and tedious.
The Shadow Land - Elizabeth Kostova

The Shadow Land, Elizabeth, Kostova, Author; Barrie Kreinik, Fred Berman, Barbara Caruso, George Guidall, Narrators

It is springtime in 2008 when Alexandra Boyd arrives in Sofia, Bulgaria, to begin teaching at the Central English Institute. She looked forward to being there because she and her brother Jack had often played a game in which they picked a place they would love to travel to, and this was the place he had loved. After an argument with him, while hiking in the Blue Ridge Mountains with their parents, he disappeared and was never found. At the time, he was 16, and she was 14 years old. Her thoughts of him are often complicated and emotional.

As the story unfolds over a period of several days, it alternates between her youthful memories of growing up in North Carolina and her present day experiences in Bulgaria. She is now 26 years old, and she is standing in front of a hotel in a country she does not know, where they speak a language she does not understand. She is in a quandary. Her taxi driver has taken her to the wrong place.

As she stood looking up the steps of this unknown, foreign hotel, she spied a few people having some difficulty descending. One of them was in a wheelchair and was quite infirm. A woman she presumed was his wife, stood behind him. A younger man, she presumed was their son, was trying to figure out how to negotiate the stairs with both of them and their luggage. Attracted by that handsome younger man’s demeanor, she offered to help and hurried to their sides. The younger man, Nevin, spoke some English. After their taxi pulled away, she discovered that she was still in possession of one of their bags, a bag which turned out to contain the remains of a cremation. Since Nevin had mentioned that they were going to a monastery, she assumed they were going there in order to bury the urn with the remains of someone called Stoyan Lazarov. She was determined to try and return the urn to them. With the help of another taxi driver, an enigmatic young man named Bobby, she begins her pursuit of the family.

The search for the rightful owners of the urn begins in earnest as they traverse many countrysides and roads in Bulgaria, in what seems to be an unending, unfruitful effort to return the bag and its contents to the Lazarovs. The search often seems to put them in danger. It also seems to endanger the others they have come in contact with who try to help them. Soon there are some violent and frightening moments.

Some parts of the book are much more interesting than others. The first half of the book seems to be about Alex and Bobby and their backgrounds. The second part is about the family that owns the urn and the man whose ashes are in the urn. It was the history of Bulgaria that drew me in and kept me interested when I might have given up on the book. There were several descriptions about the brutality of the Communists after they took over Bulgaria at the end of World War II. Their prison camps and the false accusations and charges presented against the accused will surely remind the reader of the very violence and ferocious viciousness and sadism of the Nazis that they had just defeated. Still, knowing that the Bulgarians had sided with the Nazis, at first, gave me mixed feelings of sympathy for their plight.

Eventually, all of the loose ends are knitted together and the mystery of the bag and its owners is resolved, but it takes a bit too long. The dialog of one of the main characters about his horrendous experience in captivity is too drawn out, too descriptive, and often repetitive. Also, since several characters are telling a piece of the background, it adds to the redundancy of certain parts of the story. I found Alexandra’s character to often be annoying. She tended to melodrama and overly emotional responses. Bobby, on the other hand, seemed more authentic and stable. As the story moves back and forth between the narratives of the different important characters, it also sometimes grew confusing as to where and when the action was taking place. Still, the author does have a way of painting visual images with her sentences which made the book a worthwhile read.

Except for the moments of overdone melodrama, the narrators did a very good job of portraying the individual characters, although a few times, the voice of a character changed suddenly and seemed to become a different character, although the character speaking had not actually changed. Perhaps the age of the character being presented had changed from young adult to older adult or the time had changed from the present to the past, but in those parts of the narrative, it was hard to determine what had just occurred! 

 

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review 2017-05-19 17:56
The violinist from Bulgaria
The Shadow Land - Elizabeth Kostova

Because I loved The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova, it really wasn't a difficult decision to pick up her newest novel, The Shadow Land. This book takes place in Bulgaria which is a land I am not at all familiar with beyond Viktor Krum and his Quidditch teammates. (I hope you know what that references because if you don't...let me know so I can review them for you.) You couldn't get further from witches and wizards with this book. The main character, Alexandra, is an American who travels to Bulgaria with emotional baggage (which I honestly could have cared less about) and an intent to teach English. Instead she stumbles into a mystery and a lot of dramatic intrigue. The cast of characters includes but is not limited to a wily taxi driver, an elderly artist, a menacing statesmen with flowing locks, and an intelligent street dog. I was expecting a lot from this novel and I have to admit that I came away disappointed. The characters weren't nearly as compelling or detailed as those in The Historian. **Possible spoilers ahead** The entire backstory of the main character turned out to be pointless. I had thought that there would be some kind of twist at the end but that did not turn out to be the case. For the most part, it was pretty predictable. **No spoilers beyond this point** Kostova still remains impressive when it comes to describing setting and events but as mentioned above the characters felt flat and one-dimensional. However, if you're a fan of historical fiction that is chock full of detailed descriptions then you're probably going to be a fan of Kostova's writing and if you're particularly interested in Bulgaria then you couldn't go amiss with this one. For me, I'm sorry to say, it's a 5/10.

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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review 2017-05-18 06:58
Shadowy Characters
Shadow Rider (The Shadow Series) - Christine Feehan

An interesting new series for Christine Feehan readers. With everything going on, it took me a long time to finish it. I read most of it on the way home from Illinois when we got back from my grandmother's funeral. I was really sucked in at that point. This one is about a family of people whose shadows are alive and they can manipulate and move the through the shadows/ dark spots around them. Cool idea. I'd give the idea definitely over a four star. The story overall is more like a three and a half. I think it's me. I am not into the mafia vibe. There was a pervasive mafia feel to this book I didn't enjoy. The lead character, Stefano seems like a mafia don, a man of infinite power and who is infinitely adored. But he's in a violent world and capable of extreme violence. I think if there was no paranormal elements, this simply would have been a crime romance about made men in Chicago. It was creepy who everyone bowed down to Stefano and his family and was constantly telling Francesca how lucky she was to be the apple of his eye. I think I would want to get the heck out of there. It could be what's going on right now in the country that has me sensitive to a lot of Kool-aid drinking, but that was a turnoff for me.

The other thing that bothered me was so controlling and rough Stefano was with Francesca. Now I can't say he was abusive. But he was very clearly always the one in control and expected Francesca to go along with this. I'm not into that whole aspect in which the hero is uber dominant and the heroine is submissive to him in every aspect of their relationship. Francesca did have a backbone and she was her own person, but I found her too compliant for my tastes.

I was kind of meh about Stefano. He was hot looking, with the black hair and dark blue eyes (which I really like). I dug how the Ferraros always wore three piece suits and look damned good in them. But being rich and hot isn't everything. I mean, he's a good guy and takes care of the family and the folks in his neighborhood. And he doesn't take crap. He puts his enemies down hard. He really lost me when he kept going on about how he needed sex and lots of it, but the women didn't mean anything to him. I can't stand when the hero's sexual past in rubbed in the heroine's face. Francesca kept running into Stefano's vindictive hookups and many excuses were made about how it was a nature of the Shadow Riders, but she was special to him and he adored her. Then the dude has the nerve to think about hunting down Francesca's first and only lover other than him and killing him. What. The. Frell? Nope. Yes, I like a possessive hero, but not when he's been there done that and gets irritated because he isn't the first for the heroine. Double Standard Alarm going off.

Another thing is how raunchy and rough the love scenes have gotten to be in Feehan's books. Very much over the line into erotic. I am not against sex scenes, I just get to the point where it's too much for me. Especially when it's about the hero making all the demands the heroine submitting to him sexually. It doesn't do a thing for me.

I guess there was a good love story. I didn't really connect to that aspect of the book. I was more intrigued with the shadow rider concept and the suspense storyline. Feehan knows how to write a good action and suspense story. I loved the climax. It was on point. When I was about to check out because of all the sex scenes that went on too long, the storyline twisted back to focus on the action and suspense, and I was hooked as before.

This was almost a four star, but the things I complained about above kept it in the 3.5 star range. I really wish Feehan would chill down some of the raunchy love scenes and the must have control in the bedroom aspect. That's getting old. I love a tender lover personally in my romances. If he gets a little wild every now and then, that's cool. But rough 24/7, no thanks. I love the family element and I grew fond of the Ferraro siblings. I'm looking forward to the sister's story with the guy who's in the rival family. My luck, it will probably be the last book in the series. Since it's Feehan and she's like my personal brand of crack, I will read them all.

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review 2017-04-27 03:52
The Shadow of the Torturer (audiobook) abandoned at 34%
The Shadow of the Torturer - Gene Wolfe,Jonathan Davis

I'm abandoning this audiobook. I've read it before in print and although the narrator isn't bad, I'm bored by it. The print version was actually interesting. The audio one just doesn't work for me.

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review 2017-04-24 18:46
Recommended read gone wrong
The Shadow of the Wind - Lucia Graves,Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Couldn't finish it. I don't think I even made it 1/4 of the way through. was turned off by the explicit sexual scenes especially considering the first involved an 11 year old. They felt gratuitous and unnecessary.

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