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Kill and Tell…Tell What? How Bad the Book Was?

We have a bookcase at work in the break room.  One of those “take a book, leave a book” kind of deals.  Needless to say it’s impossible for me to resist taking a book when I see one that might remotely interest me.  As you know from reading my blog, dear reader, it doesn’t take much to interest me when it comes to books.  For that reason, I tend to sometimes pick a dud.  It’s bound to happen and for all I know, it could be another person’s most favorite book of all time.  Hey, who am I to judge –  I’m currently waiting for the next Cassandra Clare novel to finish out The Mortal Instrument’s series.

kill and tell

Sadly, I fear that this most recent selection was a dud.  I picked up Kill and Tell by Linda Howard thinking it would be  a simple conspiracy/murder/suspense book, the kind you read in a day and are simply entertained.  It definitely started off like that with Dexter Whitlaw being chased through the French Quarter of New Orleans.  The ominous murder of not only Dexter Whitlaw but also a second man, one whom Dexter knew and respected by unknown assailants made me read on.

Enter the total alpha male, ladies man, Southern gentleman, Marc, who just happens to be the detective assigned to the Whitlaw murder case.  Howard first presented him as very smooth operator which then led to Whitlaw’s family.  I should have known when Karen was presented that she was a stereotypical woman who didn’t really need a man because she wasn’t sure where she was heading in life and thought she was just fine without one.  I should have stopped reading there but I’m stubborn and I wanted to find out who stepped into the car after the murder.

When Marc and Karen finally meet, it really felt creepy.  Marc wanted to make her his next conquest.  I don’t really believe in love at first sight.  I think I believe in lust at first sight and this is what I was reading.  I did not like the whole mentality of manipulation that Marc took on while he was “comforting” Karen and I felt that there were times when I wanted to kick him in the shin for being so chauvinistic as he “played his cards right.” Not to mention, I almost threw up a little at the various trashy romance passages that I so was not expecting to be there when I picked up the book.

The two fall desperately in love after a night of wild abandon (and as one of the Goodreads reviewers called it “Monkey sex”) followed by Karen running away from this “perfect” man only to find out that she’s in danger.  It felt rushed and a little annoying because she got home and the way that the ominous “they” found her was  just so plain.  I wanted it to be much more mysterious and full of intrigue but as soon as one of the big baddies was introduced, you knew.

Some of the descriptions of the scenery were nice and she did a great job of explaining humidity and high temps.  The characters were a little flat and not as developed as I like, even in my “throw away” books.  The real kicker for me that really made me kind of annoyed with this book was the discovery that it was the first in a series.  A series about a character you only meet in the last two pages of the book.  When I heard it was a series, I thought it was a series about Marc and Karen but, no!  It’s a series about the son of a dead CIA operative.  Really?  Usually the first book of a series is supposed to introduce the main character.  Not just give him a glorified cameo in which he saves the main characters of the book.  I really had a hard time with this one.  However, it’s one more book toward my 2014 goal, which after a semester of grad school is WAY off course.  Another plus is that I can bring it back to the bookshelf at work and let someone else enjoy it.

On to finish the first book based off the tv show Castle…hopefully this one will be a little more mystery and a lot less heaving and bulging…

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It Is Finished

I am FINALLY done with that book!!!!!!!!!

I skipped the criticisms and other essays in the back of this text...

I skipped the criticisms and other essays in the back of this text…

I feel liberated. 

happy dance

I feel overjoyed

celebration

I feel like I want to burn my own bra.

I finished it two days ago, but took some time to let it digest before I wrote this post.  I’m sorry. I understand that Austen’s works are revered as a socioeconomic and political glimpse at life during the Victorian era but seriously! They had NOTHING better to do?  It was all “who had this fortune,” “how much could they live off of,” “who was eligible for marriage.”  No real plot was to be found in the book just the main characters sitting around, going to dances, worrying about who came calling and when.  Even shows on Bravo have better plot lines.  I understand that at that time, there was nothing but status to really keep one in the right circles but it just got so old.  It was slammed in your face every other page, reminders that fortune and property were valued almost more than the individual.

Marianne was selfish, rude, materialistic, and a feckin drama queen.  Who (?!?!?!?!) makes themselves ill almost to the point of death over the THOUGHT  that someone MIGHT propose only to find out that you really weren’t dating at all and it was all in your head. How utterly ridiculous did I find her actions,  as much as I found the narrative which read just as this sentence does in horrible way…I almost wanted her to die just so I didn’t have to see her ridiculous actions continue on.

Then, there were the endless gossip circles.  Why didn’t any of these ladies just pick up a book.  Didn’t the gossip get old?  Didn’t they run out of things to gossip about?  Eventually all the ladies were married.  Did they move on to the next generation?  Maybe I have lived in a small town for too long and become jaded by the gossip that sometimes occurs in a small town, but this was just too much. So many things were fueled by the gossip.   Maybe that’s what Austen intended – to show how a giant game of English Countryside Telephone would potentially kill a young girl?

I seriously doubt that I, in a past life, lived during this era.  If I did, I hope I was a man.  They at least got to do more exciting things.

I know I have Pride and Prejudice in the pile.  I think I will put that one off for a little while longer, unless it has more of a plot and characters I can actually care about.  Now, I’m off to be scared by Mr. Koontz…

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Book Review: The City of Bones

I like YA fiction.  I love it.  I really do enjoy it.  For some reason, they capture this amazing fantasy world that is just pure entertainment.  I have yet to find a YA series that I didn’t really like.   Don’t judge.

Most recently, I have discovered the Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare.  By discovered, I really mean I have devoured it.  I read all five books in a matter of five days.  I will start (big surprise) with the first book.

city of bones

Clarissa Fray is a normal teenager living in New York.  Along with her best friend, Simon, who like many American teenagers, is in a band with an ever changing name, Clary lives a typical, normal, and average life.  They have been best friends since childhood and it is no surprise that they are together on the night when Clary’s life changes forever.

In a seedy New York club called Pandemonium, Clary sees a beautiful group of teenagers attack a person and discovers a whole new part of the world in which she lives.

All of our fables are true.  Vampires, Werewolves, Fair Folk, Warlocks, Angels, and Demons.  And then there are Shadowhunters.  Jace Wayland is the epitome of a Shadowhunter – arrogant, deadly, and in Clary’s eyes, electric.

Something, however, is not quite right and after Clary’s mother is abducted and Clary herself is attacked by a demon, she knows that there is something deeper going on in the city that she thought she knew.  Her life is turned upside down as she finds truths in the Institute, a Shadowhunter embassy of sorts.

The plot is somewhat predictable but overall, it was ridiculously entertaining.  As Clary discovers herself and the Institute, I found myself enjoying the ride, discovering the world with her.  I could easily slip into her shoes and understand how she felt as everything was turned upside down.

Clare’s writing style is fantastic.  It moves at a very good pace with very few slow spots (which can sometimes happen with YA) and I found myself more than willing to pick up the second book…and the third, fourth, and fifth…

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I Will Burn for Reading This

Once upon a time, I was in Borders, or as I used to refer to the now defunct bookselling chain, heaven on Earth. I mean it had books, music, movies, AND a coffee shop. As long as new releases kept coming in, I could easily picture myself spending all of eternity in that store. Sadly, I do not think I will ever know if heaven is a giant Borders in the sky. At least not after reading this book that I saw upon the shelf of Borders. The book I recently (and finally) purchased when it came up as a Kindle daily deal.

Borders_Bookstore_Sign_Logo

As a Catholic, I grew up going to church, attending CCD, learning my prayers, beatitudes, commandments, and all the other stuff that goes along with it. I even spent three years at a Catholic college before needing a break to figure out life. I must admit, I love my faith and I do hold to my beliefs. That being said, I can also appreciate a provocative book that may or may not be pure blasphemy.  I’m leaning more toward blasphemy though in this particular case.

I say this because the life of Christ fascinates me. In college, I took a course called “Christ the Man, Christ the Word” which studied both the Biblical Jesus and the Jesus who was on the books in Rome’s great census. It was an amazing course because it looked beyond what I had known and had historical documentation to go along with this man that we all know (or at least know of).

Fast forward to that day in Borders where I found Lamb. It raised a question, what happened to Jesus before he started his works? I always wondered how it went for him. He was a person so that means he had to have been a teenager. Did he ever get into trouble? Did he ever go on a trip with his friends? So many years of his life are unaccounted for. Christopher Moore must have wondered too but, I think his imagination is much more creative than mine.

lamb

In his book we meet Biff, Joshua’s best friend (Jesus is the Greek name so in the book they refer to Him as Joshua). Biff and Josh grew up living next door to each other, Brian of Monty Python fame must have lived on the other side. From the start of their friendship, Biff knew that there was something different about Joshua when he would bring dead lizards back to life by putting them in his mouth.

As they grew up, the Romans became more prevalent in their lives and they soon realized, with a few visits from one of the angles, that Joshua needed to figure out how to be the messiah. Enter the wise men, the Magi, and a life changing trip that will actually prove to be more insightful than I originally expected.

Despite the biting satire, Biff’s often crude comments, and the treatment of the Magdalene, I could see something deeper in this book (whether Moore intended that or not, I am not completely sure) that spoke to the universality of Christ’s true message of love, tolerance, and forgiveness.

So many things in this book made me say, “yep, my spot will be under the burning lava waterfall for all eternity,” but then a conversation or a sentence would make me say, “maybe that is what that meant.”

Again, if you are someone who is deeply religious and does not believe that there should be any speculation about our Lord on any level, steer clear of this book. However, if you are strong enough in your faith and can handle a light-hearted, sometimes comical speculation of Christ the man, who had the same struggles we do, then give this book a try. I mean if you already saw Jesus Christ Superstar, you’re already in trouble, why not go all out. After all isn’t that why we have confession? Just kidding…

jesus christ superstar

Carl Anderson, Ted Neeley, and Yvonne Elliman in 1973’s Jesus Christ Superstar

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The Graveyard Book – A Tale of Life

So my Goodreads.com goal is to read 100 books in 2013.  While I have three other books currently going, I finally finished the first one.  According to the counter, I’m seven books behind.  I think I can do this.  Book number 2 is almost done!

This morning I finished Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book.

The graveyard book

“There was a hand in the dark and it held a knife.”  So begins the tale of Nobody Owens, a young baby boy who narrowly escapes murder.  The rest of his family is not so fortunate and little Nobody wanders into the graveyard where is he is happily protected by Mr. and Mrs. Owens, a pair of childless ghosts who live in the graveyard near the scene of the murders.

After being granted the protection of the graveyard, Nobody, or Bod as he is called, learns the ways of the graveyard.  He learns how the ghosts move and learns of the darker things that lurk in the graveyard.   Growing up under the watchful eye of Silas, his guardian, Bod learns that outside the graveyard, there are still things lurking and waiting to end his life.

Gaiman’s hero must come of age in a world that is unlike any other child, having parents that no one else can see, and never leaving the security of the graveyard. However, Bod is able to find love and friendship in many places – a witch in the Potter’s field, a young (living) girl who came to play in the graveyard, and even in the mysterious Sleer who guard the treasures for their master’s return.

With a rather obvious nod to Kipling’s The Jungle Book, this story is endearing and adventurous as young Bod discovers what it means to be human and what it truly means to be alive.  At one point, Bod finds himself alone in the graveyard, and odd thing for Bod because he has always had someone in the graveyard to talk to.  With no one there to watch him, Bod wanders outside the gate down to the Old Town.

"Bod was a quiet child with sober grey eyes and a mop of tousled, mouse-colored hair.  He was, for the most part, obedient."  The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

“Bod was a quiet child with sober grey eyes and a mop of tousled, mouse-colored hair. He was, for the most part, obedient.The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

“Bod had never walked anywhere as a sightseer before. He had forgotten the prohibitions on leaving the graveyard, forgotten that tonight in the graveyard on the hill the dead were no longer in their places; all that he thought of was the Old Town , and he trotted through it down to the municipal gardens in front of the Old Town Hall (which was now a museum and a tourist information center, the town hall itself having moved into much more imposing, if newer and duller, offices halfway across the city)…Bod listened to the music, entranced.  There were people trickling into the square, in ones and twos, in familiars or alone.  He had never seen so many living people at one time.  There must have been hundreds of them, all of them breathing, each of them as alive as he was, each with a white flower.”

Gaiman’s style is wonderful for setting the scene with wonderfully vivid descriptions including the smallest of details that, in real life, we as people would notice but so often are not included in books.  I once read somewhere that someone (I honestly forget where or who) once said how much they love when writers write things like colds into their stories because how often do you hear about a character sneezing or taking a dose of Tylenol.  These are the details that Gaiman works in effortlessly that gives the reader an amazing sense of setting and character.  The narrator provides little asides that help the reader get a true sense of the town, the modern life that has taken over the Old Town and how it has transformed the town from what Bod has learned about from the citizens of the graveyard. It is new and exciting to him and the rest of the evening in the Old Town plays out in a way Bod could only dream of.

While at times I wish there had been more adventures or more mischief for Bod to get into with the Ghosts, I had to remind myself that this novel was geared toward a slightly younger crowd.  I must admit that it didn’t bother me.  It was still a fantastic tale where ghosts, ghouls, the undead, werewolves, and jacks-of-all-trades come together and help shape Nobody.

If you are looking for a quick read and one that is going to leave you feeling uplifted in a macabre kind of way, then I would recommend this book.  If you are going to buy it in paperback, I would recommend the version I linked to above because at the end, there are some great extras including an interview with Gaiman about the book which was a great little treat for those of us who love to hear the author talk about the hows and whys of a book.

Also, a special treat for those who are Toriphiles, there is the nod to her (the two have been friends for quite some time and I even was at a concert that Neil was at so Tori sang “Tear in Your Hand” and waved to Neil.  I love when things like that happen at concerts!) at the end where he does quote “Graveyard.”  Here’s a great live version of it (followed by Snow Cherries From France) and after reading the book,  it was a beautiful tie in!

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