Category Archives: Fiction

Are You Ready For a Little Twain and Steinbeck?

Two dear friends of mine recently gave me several new books to adopt. Among them were The Moon is Down by John Steinbeck and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain. Having never read anything by either of these classic authors (I know!) I was ready for something spellbinding.moonisdown

Unfortunately, TMID left me disappointed. I was hoping for something completely different than was Steinbeck’s intention, although it is a great piece of war propaganda and it undoubtedly caused a huge uproar during WWII. It was obviously a thinly veiled re-imagination of the Nazis. What made it so scandalous, however, is that rather than being portrayed as death-dealing automatons, the Nazis were just… young men. Young men that craved love and wanted to go home. Still, from a literary perspective, I found it pretty dry until the end.

conn-yank-rqr05mACYIKAC was a bit more fast-paced. It told of an average Joe from the late 1800’s being mysteriously transported back into Camelot. Naturally, with his “modern” knowledge, he was quickly deemed a wizard and become one of the most powerful men in England.

The idea of advertisements on knight’s shields and all the wonders of the 1800’s was certainly an entertaining idea. But… oftentimes Twain’s passages were long and confusing and I had to re-read them to understand what was going on. I also didn’t like that how the protagonist got to Camelot was never explained. For some reason, missing this vital detail, I couldn’t sink into the world as seamlessly. But, of the two, I definitely enjoyed this one better.

3 knights errant and lonely Nazis of 5


It’s a Tom Robbin’s Kind of Day…!

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What if you lived in a land that executed its rulers at their first sign of old age. A wrinkle? Poison it is for you! A grey hair? Down falls the axe! Luckily, unless you’re a professional super model, this doesn’t really apply to you. What if you were a king who defied these laws and escaped–only to spend the rest of your magically LOOOOOONG life seeking immortality. And messing around with Pan. Yep, the goaty one. That’s Jitterbug Perfume for you.

“The unhappy person resents it when you try to cheer him up, because that means he has to stop dwelling on himself and start paying attention to the universe. Unhappiness is the ultimate form of self-indulgence. When you’re unhappy, you get to pay a lot of attention to yourself. You get to take yourself oh so very seriously.”

Or, in the case of Still Life with Woodpecker, you are a lovely redheaded princess in modern day America. You live in a moldering old house with your doddering sovereign parents and your batty old nursemaid. Then, during a vacation to Hawaii, you fall in love with a self-proclaimed outlaw. A snaggle-toothed ginger terrorist with dynamite strapped to him. Seriously.

My dear friends Merri and Peter introduced me to Tom Robbins, and out of all the books I’ve adopted from them, TR is by far my favorite author. His unusual and sometimes vulgar writing style is vastly entertaining and his metaphors are so strange yet so… right…that you’ll wonder why you didn’t think of them yourself.

Jitterbug Perfume was a pretty dense read compared to Still Life with Woodpecker, and had a few more dry spots. However, that being said, they both earn 4 out of 5 Camel cigarettes and drops of horny goat elixir.

Baaaaaa….

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The Rising by Kelley Armstrong

Ahhh, Kelley, you’ve done it again. Somehow you’ve managed to make the third book in a trilogy better than the first two while simultaneously intertwining two parallel story lines. Phew. I’m tired just saying that.

The Rising wraps up the Darkness Rising trilogy, which follows Maya, a mountain lion shapeshifter, and her band of genetically modified friends. They’re on the run from some of the most dangerous cabals in the supernatural underworld and have recently learned that the sleepy life they were accustomed to was all a lie. 11864728

Much to my delight, while on the run, they meet up with the teens from Armstrong’s Darkest Powers trilogy and kinda wrap that whole situation up too. I enjoyed this series wholeheartedly–probably for its simplicity. Everything was as it seemed for the most part and for ONCE an ending didn’t piss me off. Things were as they should be. And this love triangle ended the right way.

Reading these books was like dipping my toes in a lukewarm pool. It was pleasant, relaxing, and I didn’t have to get soaked. Some books cause me so much anxiety that I almost stop reading them out of enjoyment and read them to relieve the nervousness they cause. Like I said, these are easy reading.

Keep up the good work, Kelley!

3 birth marks of 5

Also, I highly recommend reading The Darkest Powers bonus pack one and two. They each contain two or three stories out of the DP world and they are definitely worth your time. They fill in a lot of gaps and add a lot to the overall trilogy and are super cheap for the Kindle. (I actually think KA posts them for free on her website but takes them down as new ones are written…)

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And as another, probably useless, sidenote– I also happened to download her other short story Hunting Kat. As far as I know it’s a stand alone, and hopefully it stays that way. The new vampire/genetic vampire/bitten vampire on the run thing was way too contrived. KA has some awesome work out there and this comes no where close to representing her talent. Skip it.

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Unsaid by Neil Abramson

Have you ever wondered what would happen if a first time author had a REALLY good concept for a book, but the whole first time author-thing really tripped him up?

This is what happens. 9628203

Unsaid is the story of the late Helena Colden, a veterinarian who just died of breast cancer. It’s told from her perspective, looking down on the animals and people she’s left behind. And the terrible secret she took to her grave.

I honestly thought that we’d be lucky enough to get a version of The Lovely Bones with a pinch of James Herriot and a dash of Jane Goodall.

Nope.

Helena’s husband David spends a good portion of the book fighting for Cindy, a four year old chimp. He’s a lawyer that’s taken this nearly impossible case as a tribute to his dead wife. While I liked watching David heal and come to grips with his loss, the whole courtroom scene was really cheesy. It read like an old Law and Order re-run from the early ninety’s. Yeah.

Plus, the little autistic boy (I forgot his name) had “visions” in the beginning, but that was dropped off after a while and never explained or examined more closely. Also, SPOILER ALERT! When Helena’s dog Skippy dies of his heart condition, didn’t we all expect some sort of spiritual reunion and/or joyously tearful Touched By an Angel scene?? Way to let the ball drop, Mr. Abramson! 

All in all, I think this is definitely one worth skipping.

It’s too bad, because I had high hopes for Unsaid.

2 paw prints of 5


The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean Auel

A long time ago, when I worked at Books a Million, I used to have a bunch of older ladies come in all the time to buy some installment of Jean Auel’s Earth’s Children series. They always raved about how good it was and how they absolutely couldn’t wait for the next one.

Sadly, I wasn’t nearly as enthralled. tumblr_m4swhv7jpB1qb75x2o1_500

Set sometime in prehistory, Ayla is a human girl that is found by a group of Neanderthals. To them her blonde hair, blue eyes, and small head are freakishly ugly, but the childless medicine woman takes pity on her and raises her as her own. She grows up alongside the Clan and learns their ways. But no matter how hard Ayla tries, she will never truly be one of them.

Blah blah growing pains blah blah outsider blah.

I felt too outside the story to really care about what happened to Ayla, and the simplistic/childish writing style put me off. I’m kind of a nosy person, so I’m half tempted to read another in the series just to see if I like it better, but eh… We evolved for a reason.

You can skip it.

2 paw prints of 5


Hater by David Moody

REMAIN CALM DO NOT PANIC TAKE SHELTER WAIT FOR FURTHER INSTRUCTIONS THE SITUATION IS UNDER CONTROL.

Ok, I’m just gonna say it. I HATED Haterhater-david-moody-2006-21412924

Whatever, haters gonna hate!

(Sorry, I had to…)

Danny lives in England and has a job that he can’t stand, a wife who doesn’t appreciate him, and three rambunctious kids that don’t know when to stop. Every day of his life is a plodding misery. Go to work, get yelled at. Come home, get yelled out. There is hardly ever any freedom or joy during his week. (Sounds familiar, right?)

Suddenly, a pandemic strikes! All across the globe “Haters” have cropped up. Seemingly normal people are instantly changed into violent killers, often lashing out at the first person within striking range. (Think zombies, but without the dead grossness and hunger for brains. More like a rage virus, really).

Danny and his family hole up in their small apartment and wait for the government to come to their aid. (Hah.) But while they’re prisoners in their own home, something unexpected happens that tears apart their family forever.

Ok… *sigh* This is where things get tricky. Haters was SOOOOO predictable that I probably could’ve gotten my 14 year old sister to finish the book for Mr. Moody. The first half was really poorly written, and the second half was interesting, but the movement came too late. I’m almost tempted to read the second book just because I am nosey and like to see what happens next. Plus, it could always be better, right?

But alas, I will probably refrain. There are so many good books out there calling my name.

Skip it.

2 stab wounds of 5

 


Happy Halloween, my darlings!

In honor of my favorite holiday, I read a couple of creeptastic books to review for you. Unfortunately, I’ve been more freaked out by looking at my bank statement than I was by these two books.

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The Ghosts of St. Augustine by Dave Lapham was one my parents got for me at least fifteen years ago. We were in–you guessed it!–St. Augustine at the time, exploring that awesome little bit of America. I’m a total wuss when it comes to scary stuff, but this book left me wanting more. It was a great compilation of historical ghostly visitations, but it was pretty poorly written and I never felt weird reading it alone. (I really want something that is going to scare me while I’m in a brightly lit room sitting next to someone, so let me know if you have any suggestions!) One of the stories was actually told from the ghost’s point of view and then never explained afterwards, so it kind of made the whole collection lose credibility.

Definitely pass on this one.

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I had high hopes for The Little Big Book of Chills and Thrills edt by Lena Tabori. It had all the makings of an interesting compilation: recipes, short stories, poems, strange illustrations, and even magic tricks. Unfortunately the magic tricks were lame, the short stories were old hat, and the recipes and poems weren’t creepy at all, obviously. I felt like this book was more like a little big waste of my time.

Skip them both.

2 haunted houses of 5


This is All: The Pillow Book of Cordelia Kenn by Aiden Chambers

Let me start by saying that This is All has been sitting in the purgatory that is my To Read list for at least a handful of years. It’s a fictional diary of sorts, detailing the life and writings of 15-19 year old Brit Cordelia Kenn. She begins the book as a sixteenth birthday present to her unborn child and it chronicles her first love, losing her virginity, her budding friendship with a beloved teacher, and the growing pains-strangled relationship that she and her parents struggled with. n232254

I absolutely loved it–thank sweet baby Jesus–because the massive tome is 800 pages long! (And, I’m sure you’ll understand what I mean when I say that there’s Harry Potter 800 pages and… well… everything else 800 pages.) A few months ago I read The Kissing Game by Mr. Chambers and I just didn’t get it. So color me surprised that a 70 year old man could capture the inner-workings of a teenage girl with such clarity!

“The demons of the Devil don’t use your weak weaknesses against you, they use your strong ones. If you’re rational and logical, they argue their case rationally and logically. If you’re loyal and faithful, they turn those against you. If you’re passionate and emotional, they make you passionate and emotional about your worse fears. Your weak weaknesses are no use to them…. They find the strongest weaknesses you didn’t know were yours and use those against you.”

The hugeness of it all is divided into several parts to digest more easily. I didn’t mind that, but for some reason Chambers felt it necessary to have a 150+ page book that required you to flip back and forth every other page A to B to follow two different strains of Cordelia’s experience at once. I understand that one is what she was writing at the time and the other was what she was living at the time, but spare me. It’s awkward enough to support such a heavy book for hours on end without having to keep track of where the hell you are every two pages.

(As a side note: I don’t remember if it was ever described, but I always pictured Cordelia and Will to be black. It doesn’t matter really, but did anyone else find themselves imagining the same thing? Also, the ending and the tampon scene… SAY WHAAAAT?!)

All in all, probably one of the best coming-of-age stories I have ever read. I just wish I had the clarity, strength of character, and insight that Cordelia had when I was floundering through my teen years.

5 mopes of 5

 


Good Omens by Neil Gaiman & Terry Prachett

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At only 25 years of age, I’ve apparently lived through at least three widely touted “end of the world” dates. Y2K, the 2011 Rapture, and December 2012. Man… think of how much I would’ve saved on car insurance if I’d switched to Oblivion!

Good Omens (the collaboration of two literary masterminds–Gaiman and Prachett) details the events leading up to the infamous Rapture as predicted by the centuries-dead witch Agnes Nutter. It switches back and forth from a multitude of perspectives, including an unlikely demon and angel duo–who have come to enjoy the pleasures of earth quite a bit thankyouverymuch, a descendent of Agnes Nutter, a descendent of a famous witch hunter, the boy who should’ve been the Antichrist, and the four “horsemen” of the apocalypse. (The four horsemen were absolutely badass and totally my favorite characters!)

With G&P at the helm, one could expect nothing less than an old-fashioned story told in a modern British voice–with more than a twist of dry humor. I’ve realized that part of the genius of NG’s story-telling ability is that he makes it seem so effortless and simple that you catch yourself thinking, I could write just like that! And then wahwahwahhhhh, you can’t.

The story was readable but I wouldn’t necessarily call it a page-turner. My only real complaint was that the multitude of characters sometimes made it hard to remember where you were in the story the following morning. Oh yeah, and I thought the ending had a distinct lack of action. Boo.

3 Freddie Mercury tapes of 5


Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris

It’s been a long time coming for the supposedly “last” book in the Sookie Stackhouse series. With a huge fan base and a wildly popular HBO TV series (Alexander Skarsgard, anyone? Nomnomnomnom), Charlaine Harris is living the life that most poor starving authors can only dream of. Unfortunately, she may have been too deeply asleep when she wrote Dead Ever After… Someone needs to pinch the crap out of her! dead-ever-after-by-charlaine-harris-cover-3_4_r560

DEA seems to exist solely to tie up any plot threads that are still left–gasping for air–no matter how weak they may be. Eric, the fairies, Sam, the Weres, Amelia… You name it. Unfortunately, Harris seems to bring up a few new characters and then forget about them–leaving their stories unanswered. But not in a cliff-hanger/spinoff kinda way. More like a “Oh, I totally forgot about that, but oh well my manuscript is due tomorrow! *Send*” kinda way.

Also, as much as I’ve enjoyed the majority of the SS series… Can we please stop detailing Sookie’s mundane day-to-day life?? She literally wasted a whole sentence–awholesecondofmylife!–bemoaning how hard it is to stuff a Digiornio box in the trash. Seriously?? Way to yank me out of the moment. I know plenty about taking the garbage out, not so much about the TrueBlood vamps. That’s what I’m paying you to write about, not pizza boxes.

AND–I DON’T WANT TO SPOIL ANYTHING FOR YOU–BUT… The way she handled Sookie’s love life in this book was very strange. And I would NOT have made the same choice had I been in her shoes. Ew. I mean, woof.

All in all, since I have OCD about this sort of thing–I’m glad I read DEA. However, if this had been my first Charlaine Harris experience… I would’ve run screaming for the hills. I can appreciate a light pool-side read every now and again, but if Sookie’s story gets any lighter it just might float away.

3 bite marks of 5