January 10th, 2010

Books, Reading

California Demon - The Secret Life of a Demon-Hunting Soccer Mom

Book# 3 of 50; 958 of 15,000 Pgs by December 2010; 2nd Read
Title: California Demon - The Secret Life of a Demon-Hunting Soccer Mom
Author: Julie Kenner
Genre: SciFi / Fantasy / Supernatural
Add'l Info: paperback; 342 pages; Kate Connor, Demon Hunter Series (2 of 5 (so far)).
Synopsis:Collapse )
My Thoughts: Rating: 5 out of 10
Book 2 wasn't exactly what I thought I remembered it being. The sarcasm was still there but not as much of the wit, and the story dragged out, but then suddenly galloped to a rushed (and dear I say it) unrealistic end. On a very positive note, however, it did end in such a way that one looks forward to book 3. Some secrets are now out, and some are still left to unfold, but there is a feeling that things are going to get very interesting from here on out.

In Depth: My fears of giving away spoilers last time were unwarranted as I seem to have mixed parts of book 2 with parts from book 3 in my mind. So once again I leave the "in depth" section blank, as I have nothing yet to say here.

Up Next: Demons Are Forever - Confessions of a Demon-Hunting Soccer Mom

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As well as: 15000pages & harmonatrix
May also be x-posted @ books & readplease

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Book 2: Dracula the Undead by Dacre Stoker and Ian Holt

Book 2: Dracula the Undead
Authors: Dacre Stoker and Ian Holt, 2009
Genre: Horror. Historical Fiction.
Other Details: Paperback, 424 pages. Afterword by Dr. Elizabeth Miller.

This official sequel to Bram Stoker's classic 1897 novel Dracula, is set in 1912, twenty-five years after Van Helsing and his allies reduced Dracula to dust. Quincey Harker, the grown son of Jonathan and Mina, is studying law in Paris but longs for a career on the stage. After a strange encounter he returns to London and stumbles across Bram Stoker's troubled production of Dracula. While he is initially unaware of the secrets of the past he cannot ignore that his parents are named in the text of the play. Meanwhile, events are set in motion that sees the surviving band of heroes being hunted down one by one.

The pedigree of this novel is outlined in the afterword by Dracula scholar, Dr. Elizabeth Miller. Collapse )

It is different to the original in that it has a straightforward narrative structure rather than being an epistolary novel. It takes its inspiration from many sources, including film adaptations such as Francis Ford Coppola's 1992 Bram Stoker's Dracula, one of my personal favourites. Overall it is a bold revisioning of the original story and incorporates material from the 1975 non-fiction work, In Search of Dracula by Dr. Raymond McNally and Dr. Radu Florescu. The novel has many characters and is packed with various homages. It also weaves in real-life figures such as Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker and the events of Whitechapel, 1888 into the narrative. I didn't find this particularly difficult to follow as I am familiar with both literary and real-life personalities of this period.

However, is it any good? Well I found it was quite a gripping story that held my attention and overall I found an enjoyable read though by no means on a par with the original or to Elizabeth Kostova's beautifully written The Historian. This is more akin to the Victorian 'blood and thunder' melodramas with plenty of action and gore; so one gets the odd head bouncing along the pavement. There are also some fairly steamy sex scenes. My main quibble was that it needed closer editing as there were a few glaring spelling mistakes and some minor continuity errors that really should have been caught and corrected by their editors.

Dracula the Undead - Official Site
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Books 1 - 3

1. Title: Locke & Key vol 2: Head Games
Author: Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez
Genre: Horror graphic novel
Pages: 145

Summary: "Welcome to Lovecraft, return with the next chapter in the ongoing tale, Head Games. Following a shocking death that dredges up memories of their father's murder, Kinsey and Tyler Locke are thrown into choppy emotional waters, and turn to their new friend, Zack Wells, for support, little suspecting Zack's dark secret. Meanwhile, six-year-old Bode Locke tries to puzzle out the secret of the head key, and Uncle Duncan is jarred into the past by a disturbingly familiar face. Open your mind - the head games are just getting started!" ~Amazon

Thoughts: I was excited to finally get this! After stumbling on Heart-Shaped Box, Hill really drew me in and caught my attention. He has a way of writing horror that is different. You know there is something going on, but it is not always seen. In this graphic novel, I like the concept of the "head games" and the different ones that are played. If you've read the first volume, this one will bring some of the back story to light and explain some things.

2. Title: Night Rising
Author: Chris Marie Green
Genre: Urban fantasy
Pages: 341

Summary: "Stuntwoman Dawn Madison is a girl with a lot of attitude. And a lot of issues, mostly about living up to the legacy of her mother, a world-famous movie star and sex symbol, whose death left Dawn to be raise by her dad, Frank -- nobody's notion of single-father-of-the-year. Still, he is her dad. So when he vanishes while investigating the bizarre sighting of a supposedly long-dead child star, she comes home to Tinseltown to join the search for him -- only to discover an erotic and bloody underground society made up of creatures she thought existed only on the screen . . ." ~Jacket copy

Thoughts: Since being burned by Laurell K. Hamilton, I've been on the look out for good urban fantasy. Unfortunately, all the ones I've picked up are so sex driven they lack a plot. Five pages into a book, I don't want the main character masturbating herself to climax while driving and having phone sex. Way too much! I found this book online and thought it sounded really interesting. However, I was a little put off by the comments of the character's issue/NEED of sex. It does come up, but it didn't feel as all-encompassing as Hamilton and her clones. It does seem a little overboard to say that Dawn is in NEED of sex or she won't function. *shrug* Seems dumb, but . . . On the whole, I really enjoyed this book. It is engaging and fast paced. At times it feels as though Green is "name dropping." It is almost as though she needs to hammer in the fact that she "knows her shit." Some of the things she talks about are neat, but it goes way too far. But the book was still good. In fact, the sequel is sitting on my coffee table wait to be read ^_~

3. Title: Batman: Harley Quinn
Authors: Paul Dini, Yvel Guichet, and Aaron Sowd
Genre: Graphic novel
Pages: 48

Summary: "At last! The story that introduces the mega-popular Batman animated series character Harley Quinn . . ." ~Jacket copy

Thoughts: !!! I finally got my hands on this little beauty! For awhile, it was hard to find online for under $100. While doing Christmas shopping, I found that the price had dropped! Ordered it. Read it. Loved it. If you like Harley from the TV series, you'll love this one!

Pages-to-date: 534
Currently: Unwind by Neal Shusterman


I've frequently referred to the United States from 1945 to 1965 as The America That Worked(TM), and, where possible, identified authors who did not describe the secular challenges to that order as unambiguously desirable. The 2010 Fifty Book Challenge entries will continue that theme, offering Joseph C. Goulden's The Best Years: 1945-1950 as Book Review No. 1. The book came out in 1976, and Mr Goulden's biography notes contributions to Harper's and The Nation, admittedly before those magazines went nuts, as well as investigative reporting on AT&T and the Gulf of Tonkin. What makes the work instructive is his reluctance to apply hindsight to the time he describes, from the surrender of Japan to the beginning of the Korean War. Thus, although he devotes sections to the consumer economy and the popular culture, he leaves the subsequent sneering at what emerged later in the Eisenhower administration for readers to discover in John Kenneth Galbraith or Vance Packard. Each section begins with a recollection of his adolescence in Marshall, Texas, and his recognition that something is wrong with de jure segregation surfaces, but the reader will have to find out what transpired elsewhere. The tension between the credentialed Establishment and the benighted masses, manifesting itself in the emergence of Whittaker Chambers, Joseph McCarthy, and Richard Nixon as prominent anticommunists is present, but Mr Goulden resists the temptation to say much about their subsequent implosions. And perhaps that is a good thing, as in 1976, the crackup of Soviet-style communism and the Warsaw Pact was not in any of the Serious People's prognostications. The contemporary reader might read the history, more or less as it happened, of the end of the World War II alliance and the development of that counter-Establishment, and reflect on whether a similar dynamic might be at work, with Sean Hannity and Sarah Palin among the early critics of an overweening government, and a crackup of the technocratic Credentialed Establishment that will come.

(Cross-posted to Cold Spring Shops.)

Book #2 of 2010

#2 - Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen (audiobook narrated by Juliet Stevenson)

Slightly differing in tone and subject matter from Austen's usual fair, her delightful irony is ever-present. Targeting both literary and social conventions, Austen's earliest novel is a tale of a comically daft heroine and her first encounters requiring finesse with both human subtlety and the manners of society.

In audio format, I think it wise to find a performer a bit inept with the character of John Thorpe as he quickly becomes painfully annoying. I listened to the version narrated by Juliet Stevenson (who was spot-on with the characters), and her skill left me desirous of John's early demise.
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Books 137-138


137. Rights of Man - Thomas Paine
            Finally finished this book!  It took me about three months to read this tiny book, and I can safely say that it was the most boring book I read this year.  I don't regret it cause it was a classic, and Paine has some interesting stuff to say about the French and American revolutions, but I never want to read through another list of recommended taxation rates based on the British economy in 1780.  Ugh.

138. Electra - Euripides
             A play about Electra, the daughter of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra, after Agamemnon's murder. 

Might be the last for some time

5. Things Not Seen by Andrew Clements Cover
Summary: Bobby Phillips was an average boy who went to school and lived with his parents. One morning, he woke up to get ready for school only to find out that he was missing. His entire body had turned invisible. No more school, no more friends, no more anything, his life feels like it's over. He goes out after his parents leave and heads for a library. After some time there, he decides to leave, bumping into a girl. Alicia, a blind girl, has no idea he is invisible and they immediately become friends. Now Bobby needs to find a way to get back to normal while his parents jump through hoops keeping his invisibility a secret.
Review: For a young adult/teen book, I thought this was done really well. Invisibility comes up every now and then in stories but this was the first time I've read a story where it was involuntary and the boy didn't want power or to commit crimes. The book never felt slow and it did feel like an actual fifteen year old boy was telling his story.
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Book #5/Book #1 of 2010

So I've decided that, given I had a few months off due to other things (I started my challenge in September), I gonna, technically, go ahead and start a new challenge for 2010 while also attempting to finish my original challenge.

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Title: Scott Pilgrim, Vol. 1: Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life
Author: Bryan Lee O'Malley
Genre: Graphic novel
Format: Paperback
Pages: 168
Rating: ★★★★★

Amazon.com description (highly appropriate for this book):

Scott Pilgrim is 23 years old, lives in a cold, unnamed Canadian town, plays bass in a band called Sex Bob-Omb and has a very cute 17-year-old Chinese-Canadian girlfriend, Knives Chau. His "precious little life" is amiably unstructured, and he drifts, happily unemployed, between band practice and time spent with Knives. His relationship with Knives is chaste—walks, chats and hugs—although Knives is getting bigger ideas. "We haven't even held hands," Scott explains. "It's just nice, you know." But then he starts having dreams about Ramona Flowers, a mysterious, equally cute and perfectly legal hipster chick on Rollerblades who delivers books for Amazon.com*. Ramona is anything but simple, and O'Malley's tale of adorable slackers in love is transformed into a wildly magically manga–kung fu fantasy adventure. We meet the first of Ramona's seven evil ex-boyfriends, Matthew Patel, who challenges Scott and his band to a supernatural martial arts duel right out of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. O'Malley has crafted a delightfully hybrid comics love story. It's an alt-lit, rock 'n' roll graphic novel with wonderful manga-influenced drawing and a comically mystical plot that manages to capture both the genuine intimacies and serial dishonesties of young lov
Okay, I loved this book, and I am anxious to read the rest (volume six comes out this year!). I had some expectations about the book going in, due to reading a couple fanfics prior to picking up the book (and I had been looking into the series for quite a while, but never got around to being able to purchase it until now). If you're a fan of comics culture, video game culture, or just plain fandom, I highly recommend this book.

*Ramona actually works for Amazon.ca, not Amazon.com, since the story is set in Canada.
El Corazon

13. King Ottokar's Sceptre; 14. All the Pretty Horses; 15. The Crab With the Golden Claws

King Ottokar's Sceptre
by Herge

Started/Finished: January 10, 2010

Little weaker story here than in the last couple of Tintin books. This one was just a little too childish with too many fantastic coincidences to get our hero out of trouble in just the nick of time. Not saying this wasn't still enjoyable, just not as enjoyable as the last couple of books. The artwork was still strong. 64 pages. Grade: B-
All the Pretty Horses
by Cormac McCarthy

Started: January 9, 2010
Finished: January 10, 2010

A perfect novel. It took me ten or twenty pages to get into McCarthy's language, but once I did, I loved how his rhythm and meter just swept me along page after page after page. I read a lot and it's seldom I find a book that I don't want to put down. This was one. 302 pages. Grade: A+
The Crab With the Golden Claws
by Herge

Started/Finished: January 10, 2010

I really enjoyed this one. It was a bit more comedic than the previous Tintin stories, especially with the drunk ship captain tagging along with Tintin and Snowy. This reminded me of a funny 1930s screwball comedy. Grade: A-
Total # of Books Read in 2010: 15
Total # of Pages Read in 2010: 2,632

Currently Reading: Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens
Reading Soon: More Tintin; The Big Rewind by Nathan Rabin; .45 Dangerous Minds by Steven Blush and George Petros; The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler, The Voyeur by Alain Robbe-Grillet
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V.C. Andrews' newest and a furry mystery

#3 - The Heavenstone Secrets by V.C. Andrews

for those who have been VCA fans since her death and have been disillusioned by certain past books (such as the very crappy Willow series), let me tell you....i honestly believe the Andrews family disposed themselves of the crappy ghostwriter and hired a much better one to continue her legacy with the wealth of ideas she left behind.

this novel and the Heavenstone family is classic VCA at its best with some crazy twists to keep you thinking. Collapse )

#4 - Cat on the Scent by Rita Mae Brown (and Sneaky Pie Brown)

as always, the Mrs. Murphy mysteries are enjoyable. this one had a mildly disappointing end Collapse )

still working on the books i mentioned in my first post of this year (The Wise Woman and Alexander the Great: Murder in Babylon)! hope to finish one of them by this weekend.

The New Year...time to start reading

Last year I read an abysmally small amount of books. This year, I'm going to try for 50. Nothing like a great goal to get me reading!!!

Book 1: A Study in Scarlet - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Plot: Whenever the local police are lost to know where to look to find the evidence, or when they are unable to connect the clues, the obvious person to contact is Sherlock Holmes. This case, where a man's dead body is found in an untennanted house, has the stars of the local constabulary completely stymied. Watson, who is just beginning to know the man who he shares a suite of rooms with, is also puzzled. However...the great Sherlock Holmes is on the case.

My thoughts: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle spins a lovely tale. I love the way that he explains Holmes thinking - better than the blow by blow explanation of Holme's blows in the movie.

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)