December 11th, 2016

The Rising by Brian Keene

book 78:  The Rising by Brian Keene

I'm not a huge zombie fan.  I got Brian Keene's name from the Disturbing Book Group as someone who writes scary zombie books.  I'm always looking for a horror book that would actually scare me, so I gave him a try.  The Rising is the first of at least two.  (I am currently reading City of the Dead, which is the second and will be reviewed on completion.)  On the jacket and in the reviews it talks about it having a cult following and being part of the reason for the current American zombie love affair.  *shrugs*  It had a couple of interesting ideas...zombie animals could be scary, but I think that would make survivability laughable in reality.  Really, like most other zombie things I have seen or read, it was just grotesque.  More cringe-worthy than actually scary.  It does end in a cliff hanger, so if you decide to read it, go ahead and get a copy of City of the Dead as well.
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Between helping (a bit) with cookie decorating and clean-up, I had very little spare time to read, so today's post isn't as extensive as others have been in the last few weeks.

That being said, here's the run-down:

First book finished was Osprey Weapon #27: The FN FAL Battle Rifle, a weapon about which I knew nothing. Fairly technical, with a little bit of recent history to illustrate.

Next, and last, was Osprey Weapon #28: The Bren Gun, a British weapon especially noted in WWII. There was even a light armored vehicle specifically built to carry the weapon and its team. The write-up was pretty interesting, there's a bit more history in the use of this automatic weapon. Not bad at all.

More next week...heck, it's raining today in Southern California; I might finish one before nightfall!

Book 56

Title: Skin Game
Author: Jim Butcher
Series: part 15 of "The Dresden Files", follows Cold Days
Pages: 600
Summary: Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only professional wizard, is about to have a very bad day. Because as Winter Knight to the Queen of Air and Darkness, Harry never knows what the scheming Mab might want him to do. Usually, it’s something awful.

Mab has traded Harry’s skills to pay off a debt. And now he must help a group of villains led by Harry’s most despised enemy, Nicodemus Archleone, to break into a high-security vault so that they can then access a vault in the Nevernever.

Problem is, the vault belongs to Hades, Lord of the freaking Underworld. And Dresden is dead certain that Nicodemus has no intention of allowing any of his crew to survive the experience. Dresden’s always been tricky, but he’s going to have to up his backstabbing game to survive this mess ...

My thoughts:
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Book 57

Title: In the Middle of Somewhere
Author: Roan Parrish
Pages: 330
Summary: Daniel Mulligan is tough, snarky, and tattooed, hiding his self-consciousness behind sarcasm. Daniel has never fit in—not at home in Philadelphia with his auto mechanic father and brothers, and not at school where his Ivy League classmates looked down on him. Now, Daniel’s relieved to have a job at a small college in Holiday, Northern Michigan, but he’s a city boy through and through, and it’s clear that this small town is one more place he won’t fit in.

Rex Vale clings to routine to keep loneliness at bay: honing his muscular body, perfecting his recipes, and making custom furniture. Rex has lived in Holiday for years, but his shyness and imposing size have kept him from connecting with people.

When the two men meet, their chemistry is explosive, but Rex fears Daniel will be another in a long line of people to leave him, and Daniel has learned that letting anyone in can be a fatal weakness. Just as they begin to break down the walls keeping them apart, Daniel is called home to Philadelphia, where he discovers a secret that changes the way he understands everything.

My thoughts:
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Five Centuries of Illustrated Fables

book 79:  Five Centuries of Illustrated Fables by Aesop

I've always liked Aesop's fables.  I picked this up in a library book sale and was reading it as a potential children's book to pass on to my niece.  This is actually not a children's version of the tales.  It goes a bit into the history of Aesop, who may or may not have been an actual person, and the evolution and collection of the tales through, well, five centuries.  The tales and illustrations are also sampled from five centuries, so the language is sometimes archaic and the tales written variable in very moralistic and preachy parables, strained poetry, or clever tales of life lessons.  It had all the classics, like "The Fox and the Grapes", but also many I had never heard of, like "The Camel and the Driftwood" with the moral that things at a distance may be strange but normal when they are closer or you get to know them.  It was a worthwhile read, but I think I like the versions with the catchy sayings the best. :)

Books 36 and 37

36. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. This is actually a reread; I read this in grade school (although I may have read an abridged version, I don't recall). I've been wanting to reread this one for a while now, and this year seemed to be a good time to do just that, since I'm co-props designer for an upcoming staged version of this story (see my previous blog post). I remember really enjoying the adventures of Scout Finch as a child, especially her finding the little treasures in the knothole. As an adult, I picked up on a lot more. I've complained about this before but all too often the word "classic" is overused. Too many so-called "classics" are mind-numbing, pretentious garbage. But this is a novel that richly deserves the name of classic. It's well-written, with memorable and all-too human characters with their own strengths and weaknesses. The story is filtered through young Scout's eyes, and most of the action takes place during the year where her father Atticus Finch is defending a black man from a rape charge, in Depression-era fictional small town in Alabama. Scout is a smart, somewhat rebellious child who gets frustrated with her older, supposedly boring father. But her views slowly change as that summer teachers her about just how strong and how noble Atticus is. By the end of the book, her maturation is evident. This beautifully-written book is a must-read, and it pains me that there are school districts who are mulling the banning of this great work.

37. Private Doubt, Public Dilemma: Religion and Science Since Jefferson and Darwin, By Keith Stewart Thomson. This completes my reading challenge about reading a book on religion. It may be a stretch for this category - it wasn't quite what I expected - but ah well. Thomson is surprisingly even-handed in discussing the issues that came up with the publication of Darwin's Origin of Species, plus even some of the debates that came up even in the early 1800s, with the Age of Enlightenment. It's a tough issue to balance, since revolution versus creationism are n many ways such polar opposite ideas. My reaction to the book itself is mixed. It's well researched and balanced, but much of it is also boring. Up until the last few chapters I was ready to pan it completely as being as dry as toast. Much of it reads like an academic textbook. The first chapter is especially dull, and had it not been so late in the year, I probably would have given up on it after the first chapter. But then the last few chapters - which concentrates more on the debates between Darwin and those who supported his theories, those who took a different tack to his theory to wed it to religious belief, those who argued against it for scientific reasons and those who opposed it because it does seem to clash with dogma. This part was more interesting. Still, not sure I can really recommend this book because you have to schlep through so much to get to a couple of good chapters. The appendix was somewhat interesting. I guess if you are reading up on the debates of revolution, by all means this is a good source. But if you are looking for a nice, educational read to engage your brain in quieter moments, this may prove to be more of an insomnia cure.

Currently reading: The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah (for the Audie Book award winner category in the Book Riot challenge), and Will Write for Food, by Dianne Jacob (for the food memoir category).