Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Book 15 - Bite Me - Christopher Moore

Wow, it's hard to write a review of the third book in a trilogy without giving everything away. If you haven't read the first two books in this series, you may want to stop here; spoilers are below.

Bite Me is the third book in Christopher Moore's Vampire Trilogy that began with Bloodsucking Fiends, and continued with You Suck. Bite Me continues the saga of Jody and Tommy, two twenty-somethings who have recently become vampires, and Abby Normal, their goth-punk, teenage minion. When the story starts, Abby and her boyfriend, Foo Dog are trying to clean up the mess from the first two books. Chet, the huge vampire cat is hunting down and eating homeless people and meter maids in San Francisco, while accidentally turning every cat in town into a vampire. Meanwhile, Jody and Tommy are still one giant bronze vampire statue. Wackiness ensues.

I adored the first two books in this series, but I just didn't love this one quite as much. I can't put my finger on it; maybe it just wasn't as funny as the other books. I loved Abby Normal in You Suck, but she just got on my nerves in Bite Me. At least in this book sunlight can kill vampires. It doesn't make them sparkle

Friday, August 13, 2010

Book 14 - Going In Circles - Pamela Ribon

Charlotte is a 30-year-old newlywed whose life has turned upside down. After five months of marriage, her husband walked out on her. He returns a few weeks later, but as she realizes she can no longer trust him, she moves out. Her life becomes complete and utter chaos, and she has two methods of coping. The first is to make a mental list every morning of what she is going to do that day. The second is for the more stressful parts of her life to be narrated to her by a voice that sounds surprisingly like John Goodman. In short, she's going insane.

In comes Francesca, a gothic co-worker who introduces Charlotte to the LA Derby Dolls, a banked track roller derby team. Suddenly Charlotte has a whole new group of friends, and a new outlook on life. Cue Lifetime Movie music.

I picked up this book only because it was about Roller Derby. However, Derby doesn't enter the book until about one hundred pages in. I wish the book had focused more on the roller derby, and less on the divorce drama. Charlotte was a narcissistic whiny brat for most of the book who grated on my nerves. Eventually she realizes that she is being selfish, and becomes more likable. When they finally did get to the derby, the stories were entertaining. I especially enjoyed hearing how Charlotte broke her tail bone. I severely injured mine and couldn't sit, stand, walk, or do anything without pain, so I definitely identified.

One stupid thing that I am picky about. On the cover, the girl passed out in the grass is wearing artistic skates, not speed skates. Artistic skates are terrible for derby. Since this book is written by a derby girl, one would hope she would have insisted on putting speed skates on the model.

This was a quick read, and it was cute. It might be great for a plane ride, but it's not anything I would go out of my way to pick up, unless you are really interested in whiny white girls playing roller derby.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Book 13 - Pride & Prejudice & Zombies - Jane Austen & Seth Grahame-Smith

This book has been reviewed to death for The Cannonball Read, but I'm going to put my two cents in. A lot of reviews of this book have been by guys who admit that they had never read the original, or even seen a movie of it, so they had no idea what to compare it to. I think they missed the true genius of the concept. The language is lifted verbatim from the original P&P, except every now and then the Bennet sisters must fight the hoards of the Undead. I like how Smith uses a lot of the actual dialog from the book and riffs on it, especially the very well known first line. "It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains."

However, what makes the book great, also makes it drag on and on and on. I have read the original Pride & Prejudice many times, seen 3 different movies of it, and I've even seen the Bollywood musical remake, Bride & Prejudice. I know how the story will end, so there wasn't really any suspense. I'm sick and tired of all of these sequels to classical novels, but the straw that broke the camel's back was, Mr. Darcy, the Vampire. ARGH! After a while, this just becomes fan fiction. Poorly written fan fiction. The concept is cute enough, but I was just ready for it to be over.

Don't check out Sense & Sensibility & Sea Monsters either. What a waste of time!

Book 12 - Storm Front - Jim Butcher

OK, confession. I actually enjoyed The Dresden Files series on Sci-Fi. (It will always be Sci-Fi, never the increcibly fucktarded Sy-Fy). That was before I had ever read or even heard of the books. I still enjoy the series, but as a completely different animal. The Harry Dresden in Storm Front is a badass, take no nonsense, wizard. None of that Harry Butthole Pussy Potter shit here. He's a snarky smartass, and I think I'm in love.

Harry Dresden is a wizard for hire in Chicago. Most of his work comes from consulting with the Chicago Police Department, particularly Lieutenant Karrin Murphy of the Special Investigations Unit. They are the unit that investigates anything labeled "weird." Dresden is called in to investigate a couple whose bodies literally exploded from the inside out. What follows is a complex detective story that involves magical drugs, orgies, vampires, giant scorpions, and the mob.

This books reminds me of Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake series. In the beginning, when they were good. It reads like film noir. It is a very quick read, and very entertaining. I can't wait to read more books in this series.

Book 11 - The Last Unicorn - Peter S. Beagle

"There has never been a world in which I was not known."

How do you write a review of your favorite book since childhood? How do you review a book that is such a part of you that you don't ever remember not knowing it? How do you express in words how much a book has impacted your life? This is the book that I have turned to in the darkest times of my life, when I needed solace and comfort. I would call this my guilty pleasure, but I have no guilt over this book. I unabashedly adore it.

The Last Unicorn sounds like it would be the title of the girliest book of all time - something full of rainbows, fairy princesses and butterflies. Well, there are a couple of princesses, and there is a talking butterfly, but this isn't your typical fairy tale. This is a fairy tale in the vein of The Princess Bride or Stardust - a little bit fractured.

This is the story of the Unicorn who is quite content to live out her immortal life in her forest forever while contemplating how beautiful she is. One day she overhears two huntsmen saying that Unicorns are long gone, if they ever existed at all. The Unicorn decides to step out into the world and determine if she truly is the last, or if the others are in hiding. On her journey, she encounters an incompetent magician, a feisty spinster, an evil king, and the obligatory handsome prince.

While the story is fine for children to read, a lot of the themes are very adult. It is a bittersweet tale, and when I was little, the end would always make me cry. Of course it's hard to find a Peter Beagle novel that won't make you cry.

"As for you and your heart and the things you said and didn't say, she will remember them all when men are fairy tales in books written by rabbits."

Best line ever written.

In the last few years, Beagle published a sequel novella, Two Hearts. It is simply beautiful. If you enjoyed The Last Unicorn, you should definitely read Two Hearts. Also, if you ever get a chance to go to a Peter Beagle book reading, cancel all other plans and go. He is extremely nice.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Book 10 - The Graveyard Book - Neil Gaiman

The Graveyard Book tells the story of Nobody Owens, whose family was murdered when he was an infant. Not a baby satisfied to be contained to a crib, young Bod crawled to the local graveyard at the time of the murders. He is then adopted by the ghosts of the graveyard. His primary caretaker is Silas, a mysterious figure who doesn't like the daytime. Bod is given the Freedom of the Graveyard, so he can walk through walls, and see in the dark crypts. However, if he leaves the graveyard, there is constantly the threat of being found by the man who murdered his family.

Each chapter is basically a short story. Years pass between the chapters, so the reader gets to see Bod grow up and want more freedom. Bod has adventures with Werewolves, Goblins, and other Ghouls. My favorite part was the chapter when Bod finally gets to go to the real world to go to school. I love how he deals with the school bullies.

I really enjoyed this book. I have enjoyed the other Neil Gaiman novels I have read: Coraline, Stardust, Neverwhere, & Good Omens. This is similar in tone to Coraline - very dark for a children's story. I especially love the first line, "There was a hand in the darkness and it held a knife." I would recommend this book to anyone who likes fantasy, but it may be too intense for very young readers.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Book 9 - Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously - Julie Powell

I am ridiculously slow on writing reviews because I finished this book weeks ago. Other than this cannonball read, I haven't written book reviews or term papers for at least 6 or 8 years. I still have my 10th grade English teacher snarking in my brain whenever I try to write anything, telling me that it's not good enough. Now, I am the same age that Julie Powell is in this book. I will hit the big 3-0 in August, and I'm probably having my own mini mid-life crisis. I'm trying to figure out when I started giving a shit about what people think of me. I never had that problem before. I guess that's why I joined roller derby, because everybody said I couldn't, shouldn't, or wouldn't do it!

Julie Powell is a low-level secretary who works in NYC. She answers the phone and takes citizen's comments on how the city should handle the rebuilding of the World Trade Center. The comments range from heartbreakingly sad to disturbingly stupid. She is constantly stressed out, and the only outlet for her stress is cooking. One particularly bad day, she blindly picks up ingredients from the market, and unconsciously has grabbed everything to make Julia Child's recipe for potato soup. That's when she comes up with the idea to cook every recipe in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking and write a blog about it. However, the blog slowly begins to take over her life. I enjoyed reading about how old-fashioned some of the recipes were, and how hard it was to track down some of the ingredients. It reminded me of when I wanted to make a raspberry tiramisu that Giada DeLaurentis made on The Food Network. I went to 5 different stores to track down all of the ingredients, and that damn tiramisu ended up costing about $35. But I had to make it, to prove that I could.

I really enjoyed this book. It was a quick read, and I thought it was cute. Not awe-inspiring literature, but enjoyable. I saw the movie first, then read the book. I enjoyed the movie more, but probably because I was more interested in the Julia Child parts than the Julie Powell parts. The Julie Powell in the book is more fun than the one in the movie. The one in the book is stubborn, swears a lot and has a deep-abiding love for Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I can relate.

Book 8 - Tell Me Where It Hurts: A Day of Humor, Healing, and Hope In My Life As An Animal Surgeon - Dr. Nick Trout

Awww, look at the cover. How could you possibly NOT want to read this book???

When I decided to become a dog trainer, a lot of my family and friends said, "Why don't you just go to vet school?". As though those two professions are the same thing. I help with a dog's mind and behavior. Veterinarians help with what is physically wrong with the dog. Don't get me wrong, I toyed with the idea, but after reading this book, I'm glad I decided on training, not vet school. Let's face it, I'm awful at giving my dogs medicine. Pill Pockets may be the greatest invention of the last thousand years. I can't even trim my dog's nails! (Yes, I know, I'm a hypocrite...)

Dr. Trout tells the story of a typical day working as an animal surgeon. His day starts at 2:47 AM when he gets a call that there is a German Shepherd that needs emergency surgery for Bloat. Bloat is a condition, common in large breed dogs where their stomach basically twists and flips so it can't function. It has a high fatality rate. If you read Marley & Me *spoiler* that is how Marley died. *end spoiler*

Dr. Trout tells more stories of patients and owners, some of which are sad, and some of which are downright funny. He seems like the kind of guy that I could hang out with at a bar, exchanging weird pet owner stories. I could tell him about the lady at my store that was opening all of the bottles of doggy bath spray and holding them under the nose of her spoiled Pomeranian so he could, "pick the smell that he likes". I could also tell him about the lady who has a Schnauzer that lunges and bites when suddenly woken up, but she can't bear to kick him out of her bed, even after he bit her on the face! Let's face it, we're all nuts about our pets.

My favorite story in the book was just a quick paragraph, but it was funny and sad at the same time. Apparently, after a lady's precious kitty passed on, she had him professionally stuffed by a taxidermist. Well, a few months later she took him to the vet clinic because he had a chronic skin infection. Imagine that scene in the waiting room! If this lady ever comes into my store, she will inevitably find me to talk to - I attract Crazy Cat Ladies.

Dr. Trout also talks about important issues facing both veterinarians and pet owners today - the rising costs of veterinary services, the explosion of animal obesity, and the upside/downside of pet parents who get their information from the internet. I thought this book was very informative, but maybe a little too technical. I enjoyed it, and it was a quick read. Anyone considering a career in veterinary medicine should read this book, it was very candid.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Book 7 - Practical Demonkeeping - Christopher Moore

Yeah, I know....another Christopher Moore book. What can I say? I'm hooked!

Practical Demonkeeping is the story of the demon, Catch, and his mortal "master" Travis. Travis was a seminary student during the first World War, and he accidentally stumbled on Catch. When he became Catch's master, he was granted immortality and invulnerability. The catch (pun intended) is that the demon never leaves him and is constantly feeding. On people. That Travis cares about. One hundred years later, Travis and Catch travel to the town of Pine Cove, CA. Travis is plotting to get rid of Catch, and gets caught up in the drama of the residents of Pine Cove.

I've said this in a previous Moore review, but his most interesting characters tend to be the secondary ones. Gian Hen Gian, the king of the Djinn, is hunting Catch, but since he's been cooped up in a bottle for two thousand years, he has no concept of modern technology. He becomes obsessed with the Marx Brothers because he thinks Harpo is also a Djinn. When Augustus Brine, his mortal assistant, explains the concept of movies to him, "he felt like he had just raped the tooth fairy in front of a class of kindergartners."

This is Moore's first novel, and sometimes it shows. Don't get me wrong, it is still well written and a lot of fun, but it just isn't quite as good as Lamb, A Dirty Job, Bloodsucking Fiends, or You Suck. I am definitely planning to read some more Moore for my CBR. I'm dying to read Fool, and the third book in the vampire series, Bite Me, which comes out in April.