Saturday, January 30, 2010

Book 11 - Definitely Dead

January 31 ~ It's time for book six - Definitely Dead.

Definitely Dead at Amazon

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Book 11 - The Underneath

January 25 ~ I made some book purchases over the weekend even though I promised myself I would wait for my Kindle. Oh well, too bad.

The Underneath by Kathi Appelt has been on my wish list for a while now. I just read the first page and am hooked. "There is nothing lonlier than a cat who has been loved, at least for awhile, and then abandoned by the side of the road." So sad. With a beginning this dismal, it can only get better...or can it?

The Underneath at

Book 10 - The Graveyard Book

January 22 ~ Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book won the Newberry Medal. Wow, what an honor! It was selected by The American Library Association as the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children in 2009.

I am at chapter four and enjoying it. It is pure Gaiman...creepy, different, and definitely unique. A murderer kills a family and is hunting for the one that got away...a toddler. This baby crawls away into the graveyard where he is taken in by the inhabitants there and offered the "protection of the graveyard" - which he needs.

The Graveyard Book at 

January 31 ~ The Graveyard Book is a page-turner. Newberry Award material? Sure. I believe it won because it is on the cusp of a newer trend in children's literature - the macabre. It is a fantasy unlike most others because it takes place almost exclusively in a graveyard and nearly all of the characters are indeed dead or supernatural. Neil has a knack for creating imagery that makes the fantastic seem real, the story starts with a jolt and ends with a flourish. It is a sincere, good-versus-evil delight and Gaiman finds "good" in the uncommon, the bizarre. I give it 4 of 5 stars.

Apparently Neil had the idea for this book over twenty years ago when he would watch his son ride his tricycle by the neighboring graveyard. He had the idea for a sort of graveyard Jungle Book. Interesting. Makes me want to read The Jungle Book.

On a personal note, I love the fact that it took Neil so long to write this book. It makes me see some light at the end of my "I'm-never-going-to-finish-my-novels" tunnel. Of course, he did pen a ton of great books in the meantime, but I am not thinking of that right now.

Book 9 - Dead as a Doornail

January 22 ~ It's time for another Charlaine Harris charmer. I am on book number five of the series - Dead as a Doornail. Book ten comes out in May so I plan to get these read by then. Not a chore! I adore them.

In this book, the shifters of Bon Temps and surrounding areas are under attack by a sniper.

Dead as a Doornail at Amazon

January 25 ~ I liked it but not as much as the first four; too much disturbing werewolf politics for my taste. The major mystery is finding the identity of the person hunting supernaturals. Many events are stumbling blocks to Sookie finding the culprit:  her house is set afire, she helps Tara out of a horrible "relationship", and she is enlisted by Alcide to help in his father's bid for packmaster among other things.

I will start book 6 in the series soon. 4 of 5 stars. Hopefully the coming books will have more Eric and Bill; especially Eric. He amuses me.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Book 8 - Doomed Queens

January 18, 2010 ~ Doomed Queens. Sounds cheerful, doesn't it? I am kidding of course. Historical non-fiction has always been of interest to me but I prefer it in "chunks" - small digestible morsels that I can handle without my brain aching and me saying, "This is not for a test, this is for enjoyment! Why am I torturing myself?" Sometimes historical non-fiction can be boring or monotonous. When I first perused this book, I quickly discovered Kris Waldherrell did not write your average stuffy, old history book.

Doomed Queens at Amazon

January 19, 2010 ~ The first thing I fell in love with in this book is the art direction. It is beautiful! From the delectable liner pages and lettrines, to the gorgeous illustrations and fun graphics. Then the text blew me away. It is so entertaining. Each doomed royal lady has her story told with wicked wit and a cautionary moral at the end. Cleopatra's states, "Choose your allies well, or they will come back to bite you in the asp." Diana Spencer's cautions, "Stay away from men with cameras and Camillas." I can't wait for more...Doomed Kings? Kris? Please! 5 of 5 stars. This book was a riot and I feel ready for this potential Jeopardy category too.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Book 7 - Darkly Dreaming Dexter

January 13, 2010 ~ Flipping the channels last summer and finding nothing worth watching led me to use the "On Demand" feature. There I found Dexter. I don't subscribe to Showtime and didn't know anything about the program besides the few lines describing the program which said something about about a serial killer who kills serial killers. Huh? That sounds convoluted and improbable, I thought. Then I watched it, bought into it, and unequivocally loved the show. What a intriguing character! His sister Deborah, who curses like a sailor (I abhor cursing) is another great character on the show. Since then, I ended up watching all four seasons.

Darkly Dreaming Dexter at

Right now I am a third of the way through Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay and it is pretty much exactly like season one of Dexter. There are usually subplots that don't make the cut when writing a screenplay. Besides some slight changes to the secondary characters, the story was the same. I think this is a credit to Lindsay's pulpy, darkly-funny writing.

The story is about a forensics expert named Dexter. By day he analyzes blood spatter, by night he hunts killers and dispatches them. His adoptive father knew there was no stopping Dexter's "Dark Passenger" so he developed rules to keep Dexter alive, out of jail, and maintaining some moral code - only kill killers. The killer in the book seems...familiar though. Dexter is...confused.

January 17, 2010
I discovered there were more significant changes from novel to small screen; most notably the conflict Dexter had with himself through most of the story. Had I done this? The LaGuerta character was quite different too. Yikes. I was surprised that Deborah becomes aware of her brother's Dark Passenger and how it came about. Good crime novel. If there were no Showtime Dexter, I'd read the series. Now, eh...maybe. 4 of 5 stars.

Book 6 - The Lovely Bones

January 13, 2010 ~ I am so pleased I took up another book recommendation, The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold. I was nervous to read this book thinking it would be too sad for my sensibilities. While it takes you on an emotional journey, the story is one I could easily connect with even though the premise is chilling. Susie Salmon is raped and murdered at age fourteen. You care for Susie and ache with her as she deals with this and watches her family struggle in the wake of her death. In the wave that follows, her dad is pulled under and becomes obsessed with finding her killer, her mom runs from the wave and withdraws from the family, her sister Lindsay swims desperately with the wave - growing up quickly, and little brother treads water - just trying to understand the changes in his family. Susie watches them from her heaven, which is usually a high school, and she even reaches through to her family and friends at times. She sees them grow and change as the "Susie-fest" on Earth diminishes. I have 5 chapters to go...

The Lovely Bones at 

January 14, 2010 ~ It is an amazing book. I absolutely loved it. It was nicely paced and beautifully written. I thought it would be more of a murder mystery but instead it is more about the mystery of living with something so difficult - the murder of a loved one, a child. And, in Susie's case, it is they mystery of letting go of life when all she wants to do to do is really, truly live. Susie watches her sister, friend, and would-be boyfriend experience things she knows she never will. There is a surprise near the end that I did not expect at all. 5 of 5 stars.

P.S. (do people post-script on a blog?) I was worried that I wouldn't have satisfaction at the end...I did. Thank you Sharon for the recommendation.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Book 5 - SuperFreakonomics

January 8, 2010 ~ Earlier this week, a friend lent me SuperFreakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Steven J. Dubner, which I had been meaning to check out of the library. Freakonomics was an entertaining and sometimes enlightening read so expected I would like this book as well. I did. It is a tad "freakier" than the first. While "Freak" discusses cheating teachers and sumo wrestlers and why drug dealers live with their mama, "Superfreak" reveals the "answers" to these questions and more...
  • How is a street prostitute like a department-store Santa?
  • Why are doctors so bad at washing their hands?
  • Why should suicide bombers buy life insurance?
  • Did TV cause a rise in crime?
  • Can eating kangaroo save the planet?
SuperFreakonimics at

While I am not sure I agree with all the conclusions, I applaud the authors' perspectives and the way they encourage the reader to think critically. You don't have to agree with everything in the book to enjoy the snappy prose and wacky-sounding theories. I can possibly see 80-90% of this book being "correct", including the dumbing-down of American teachers over the decades (as a teacher, I hate to agree). Personally, I take issue with the car seat conclusion and suggestions to "tame" hurricanes. I'm not sure the research valid but again, this is not a doctoral thesis, it is a book meant to entertain and stimulate the mind - which it does. 4 of 5 stars, I liked it (some parts not so much, but in general I liked it). I have a bit more to go but should finish it tonight.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Book 4 - A Touch of Dead

January 5, 2010 ~ Charlaine Harris' collection of Sookie short stories was a slight diversion from my other reading.

A Touch of Dead at

This book is a group of five short mysteries. After reading, I found out that each are reprints from other collections. Here are the stories:  “Fairy Dust” in which Sookie helps the fairy twins, “Dracula Night” where we see another surprising side of Eric,“One Word Answer” where Sookie is put in an uncomfortable situation after learning some grave news about her cousin, “Luck” where Sookie and Amelia help a local insurance agent and the whole unlucky town of Bon Temps, and “Gift Wrap” in which Sookie helps a wounded, mysterious, and very handsome "werewolf" on Christmas Eve.

Anyone who has read part of the series knows that Sookie is a telepath who oozes Southern charm and manners. She is feisty, but a lady, and that is why I just adore her. She's a breath of fresh Louisiana air. Charlaine Harris writes such vivid and convincing characters and interesting and far-fetched mysteries. It is a fabulous combination of the down-to-earth and far-flung fantasy. 5 of 5 stars for fun, light, well-written, entertaining reading.

I will be finishing the Sookie Stackhouse Mysteries as part of this challenge and am very excited that book 10 will be coming out in May. Charlaine's Harper Collins series will follow that!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Book 3 - Werewolves in Their Youth

January 3, 2010 ~ Werewolves in Their Youth by Michael Chabon has been collecting dust on my bookshelf for some time. Time to delve into what I believe will be some intriguing and moving short stories.

Werewolves in Their Youth at

January 5, 2010 ~ I am about half way through Werewolves in Their Youth and started three other books too - another collection of short stories, a non-fiction book, and a novel. I like having some variety, particularly when I am reading something that is on the darker side. Light, I need light! Funny that my lighter-hearted book has vampires and werewolves in it.

Wow, my friend emailed me a link to the entire first story of Werewolves, she thought I might like to post it here. I do... Werewolves in Their Youth by Michael Chabon  Thanks Sue.

I was introduced to Michael Chabon when I fell in love with the movie Wonder Boys. This is one of my favorite movies of all time. It is a little dark, but also funny, clever, charming, and real. Since then I have read (most of) the book. (note to self, finish Wonder Boys).

January 8, 2010 ~ The stories in Werewolves are a strip of the darker American fabric. My favorite of the collection is the first story, Werewolves in their Youth, which explores bullying, neglect, childhood depression, and divorce. Paul and Timothy are fifth grade outcasts. After Timothy, who is bound for a "special school", acts up; Paul is charged with calming him. Paul both cares for and resents Timothy, who is his only friend. The bad day spirals into the worst day of Paul's life when he sees his mom packing up his dad's experiments which means dad is not coming home. The rest of the stories are not much more cheerful. Themes include:  divorce (nearly all of the stories had this theme), self-hatred, rape, loneliness, and depression. Some characters find redemption but none do so in a real uplifting way.

Chabon's gift for vivid and revealing characters and his masterful imagery is what made these stories worth reading. I just like to be happy and I was not happy reading these stories. I tend to over-empathize (understatement) in life, so this was not the best book choice. It's not you, Werewolves, it's me. 3 of 5 stars.

The A to Z Challenge

This challenge can be by author or title. For my first time trying this, I decided to go by title. I will add books I plan to read here and when I am done I will cross them off and date them. Fun, fun.

A-  A Touch of Dead by Charlaine Harris (Jan. 5)
      All Together Dead by Charlaine Harris
C- Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
D- Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams
     Doomed Queens by Kris Waldherr (Jan. 19)
     Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay (Jan. 17)
     Dead as a Doornail (Jan. 25)
     Definitely Dead
     Dead and Gone
     Dead in the Family (May 2010) all by Charlaine Harris
E- Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
     The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
F- The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
     From Dead to Worse by Charlaine Harris
G- The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (Jan. 31)
     Grave Sight by Charlaine Harris
     The Great Train Robbery by Michael Crichton
     Germinal by Emile Zola
H- The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
L- The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan (Jan 3)
     The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold (Jan. 15)
     The Long, Dark Teatime of the Soul by Douglas Adams
M- Message in a Bottle by Nicholas Sparks
      The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
      The Moon is Down by John Steinbeck
N- Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
P- Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Rogers (Jan 2)
    Pirate Latitudes by Michael Crichton
    Peter and the Starcatchers by Ridley Pearson
    The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe
S- SuperFreakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner (Jan. 8)
T- The Time Travelers by Linda Buckley-Archer
     A Touch of Dead by Charlaine Harris
U- The Underneath by Kathi Appelt
V- The Virgin's Daughters: In the Court of Elizabeth I by Jeane Westin
W- Werewolves in their Youth by Michael Chabon (Jan. 8)

Friday, January 1, 2010

Book 2 - The Lightning Thief

January 2, 2010 ~ I chose "The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 1)" by Rick Riordan as my next book because this is the age group I enjoy writing for, I grew up loving mythology (thank you Clash of the Titans), and I want to read it before the movie comes out. Nine out of ten times the book is better than the movie. This should be promising...

The Lightning Thief at

January 3, 2010 ~ When I picked this up, I expected a great read and that is NOT what I got. Percy Jackson, a twelve-year-old with ADHD and dyslexia, is seemingly orphaned and becomes aware of his true identity. "You're a demigod, Percy." Sorry - the comparisons to Harry Potter are so evident. He goes to a new school (ahem) where he can train, learn to protect himself, and discover the truth about his origins. At Camp Half-Blood (not kidding), he is claimed by his father Poseidon and sent on a quest to find Zues' lightning bolt. He heads out for this adventure with his two friends, Annabeth (the smart girl) and Grover (the sidekick). I would not care so much about these parallels if the book was as well written and interesting as Harry Potter but it did not even come close. This is mostly due to the different writing style, character development (I didn't care about any of them), and forced subplots.

Perhaps my problem is that I am not twelve-years-old. If I were, the colloquial prose that fills the book might be refreshing instead of aggravating. The non-stop action might have been exciting to twelve-year-old me but it really had no purpose and did not support the main plot line. Yes, we are told that the demigods are hunted by Greek monsters and many children of Greek gods do not survive into adulthood. But the whole "Stop here, fight a monster. Stop there, fight a monster. Stop again, fight another monster." was just dumb. While the main plot was better, the ending, which was was supposed to be satisfying, was just disturbing.

On the positive side, I love the idea of young heroes on a quest, I thought the ideas of Greek gods having offspring in the modern world an interesting one, and it was easy reading - never burdensome. I had very high hopes for this book and sadly was disappointed. Boo. 2 of 5 stars is all it gets from me.

Note to the editor: I think you forgot something on page 120 "I managed to sidestep the first kid's swing, but these guys were not as stupid the Minotaur." hmm...

Book 1 - Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

January 1, 2010 ~ Yes, I am attempting to read 100 books in 2010 and I'm pretty excited about it. My first book will be Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith because I am feeling a little cheeky. So far I am quite diverted.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies at

January 2, 2010 ~ It is a truth universally acknowledged that a book of great admiration must be in want of a parody. Well, Pride and Prejudice has one in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. The original is easily one of my favorite books and I pretty much idolize Jane Austen so I was nervous about this particular take on such a classic. Also, I have been greatly disappointed by other Pride and Prejudice continuations or remakes however, this one is so wacky, so different, so bizarre, I just had to read it. With the original Pride and Prejudice comprising about three-quarters of the story, it was an easy and comfortable read. Comfortable, that is, until zombies (unmentionables) attack and the Bennett girls show their proficiency with blade and gun. I enjoyed the altered fate of the odious Mr. Collins but not so much the deceitful Mr. Wickham (I wonder why that is?). The battle between Lizzy and Lady Catherine was a highlight too.

After reading for awhile the zombie mayhem got a little old and I was a little annoyed but not enough to put the book down. If you hold Pride and Prejudice sacred or if you are a die-hard zombie movie enthusiast you may not enjoy this book. It is probably too altered for the former and not enough for the latter. I give it 3 of 5 stars for sheer audacity and a few laugh out loud moments.

I doubt I will be reading "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Zombie Jim: Mark Twain's Classic with Crazy Zombie Goodness" OR "Mansfield Park and Mummies: Monster Mayhem, Matrimony, Ancient Curses, True Love, and Other Dire Delights", but I have already purchased "Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters". Lord help me.