Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Warm Bodies-Isaac Marion

Point of view from a zombie? What? POV. From a Zombie? And the zombie falls in love with a living girl? What in the hell?!

“A zombie who yearns for a better life ends up falling in love—with a human—in this astonishingly original debut novel. R is a zombie. He has no memories, no identity, and no pulse, but he has dreams. He doesn’t enjoy killing people; he enjoys riding escalators and listening to Frank Sinatra. He is a little different from his fellow Dead.”

First let me say: I was looking over some reader reviews and I have to say at first I was kinda put off because most of them seemed to be hung up on R and Julie falling in love. I believe the word one person used was “skeeved out.” But I went ahead and found it at my local library and after reading it, I have to say to those people: get over yourself and your tunnel vision.

That being said, R is a zombie who prefers a different kind of life than the one that was forced upon him. Though he lacks memories of his life when he was alive and some of his basic functions are stunted by being the living dead, he brain functions like that of any deep thinking philosophic character. I think that’s what drew me in from page one, R’s admittance for needing something more than hunting and brains. At first he doesn’t understand the yearning in his gut, but when he eats poor Perry’s brain and gets his memories, he falls in love with Julie, the dead guy’s girlfriend. R saves Julie and through their time spent together at the zombie hive and at her home, they realize that there is more to what the world has become, that it has to get better. Right?

Isaac Marion creates not a zombie novel, but a philosophical romp down the path the of the metaphysical whose protagonist just so happens to be a zombie. I mean, what better example of the modern world? At least here in America. We are slaves to a commercialism and materialism that this country shoves down our throats each and every days. We crave it like zombies crave for brains.
Totally sorry about the soap box rant there. My bad. Back to the book.

Marion’s play of words fits the world he had created. I liked how Marion didn’t bother with back story of how zombies became zombies, because, really, we’ve heard all the stories. The how is not important, it is the characters that are crucial to this story. It’s nice to read from time to time character driven pieces. And R is the kind of character you can’t help but get behind.

The love story that developed between Julie and R I felt weren’t gross. I mean, wasn’t like they were having sex with each other. They were both searching for something and they ended up finding each other. Julie found someone she could really talk to and be honest with. R found someone who saw more than a zombie. And aren’t we all just trying to connect in this life? I think that’s what Marion was doing with Julie and R. Two complete and total opposites, and yet, they found each other and what was what they needed to move on and live.

I really enjoyed reading this book. Parts were a little slow and I felt that Marion might have made Julie more of a bitch than need me. But I enjoyed turning the pages and reading about R’s self discovery through eating pieces of Perry’s brain. And then I got to the end, and there I simply said, “what the hell is this shit?” Let me explain this statement. The whole book is great combination of action and philosophy of what it means to be alive. Then you get to the end and it’s a slap in the face of supernatural mysticism. The only mention of mystical forces through out the entire book is from a group of zombies that are called Boneys. Hence there name, there is not much left to them but they manage to walk around. So when R and Julie kiss, there is this weird surge of energy exchanged between them and then the Boneys are powerless now? What? I don’t know about you, but to me it seems like Marion might have written himself into some corner. I felt the ending was contrived and a little forces, like maybe it wasn’t the real ending? It was a little too convenient and frou frou happy trails for me.

Maybe I’ve been made jaded by reading just one too many zombie books where it doesn’t go so well…

But I know love and I know what it means to make a deep, spiritual connection with someone. So good job, Isaac Marion. Too bad you're letting Hollywood turn your book into a movie...Le Sigh...

Beauty Queens-Libby Bray

Narcotic teen beauty queens + Lord of the Flies – adult supervision + political conspiracy + TV show pirates =

“The fifty contestants in the Miss Teen Dream pageant thought this was going to be a fun trip to the beach, where they could parade in their state-appropriate costumes and compete in front of the cameras. But sadly, their airplane had another idea crashing on a desert island and leaving the survivors stranded with little food, little water, and practically no eyeliner. What's a beauty queen to do? Continue to practice for the talent portion of the program--or wrestle snakes to the ground? Get a perfect tan--or learn to run wild? And what should happen when the sexy pirates show up?”

I tried to win a copy of this on GoodReads, but alas, no. So I ended up checking the book out from my wonderful library. Libby Bray needs to thank whoever came up with the cover of this book because it’s clever and smart marketing. A bandolier of lipsticks?! Agh! Brilliant!

But onto the meats and potatoes of the book: The story. I was skeptical of reading this despite its awesome cover. Its been awhile since I’ve read a young adult book that didn’t offer a pallet of spooky supernatural characters and plots. I have to say: totally surprised! Actually, pleasantly surprised!
Let me sum up for you fine folks:

Plan crashes on the way to a beauty pageant run by the Big Brother-esque company called The Corporation. Only a handful of the girl survive and, with no adult supervision, and they are wrangled by an alpha female, Miss Texas, who insists that they continue their beauty pageant routines because they want to look good when they are rescued. The remaining girls discover not only who they are as individuals, but also, a secret Corporation compound and that they do not plan on saving the girls. Then we meet a dictator named Momo B. Chacha, a U.S. presidential candidate and Corporation head honcho Ladybird Hope and a whole slew of Reality TV show pirates.

I think what I loved most about this book was that despite the crazy plot, the characters seemed relatable. Sure, they were all basket cases, but having once been a teenage girl, emotions and hormones are always running on overload. It makes you a little unstable. Ask my folks and my brother. I mean, they had to deal with three teenage girls who are eighteen months apart. I’m surprised there wasn’t some kind of hormonal angst ridden nuclear fallout at my house growing up.

What I think Bray did best was to make this book is make all the main girls have secrets. They range from their past, their true intentions, and who they really are. Not going to give the secrets away though. Because I’ll just ruin the book for you! This is a reflection on all of us always wanting to be accepted, so we cover up who we are and mix with the flow of conformity. But who is to say that people wouldn’t like us for who we are? I think that this is the subtle message that the Bray weaves in her story. And if some people think you’re a freak? Who cares? There is always someone out there who gets you. Nice message in a world where everyone is always lumped into some social group.
Bray’s writing is easy to read and made the book go by really fast. I was kinda bummed when I got to the end and it was, well, done. I liked how she interested little breaks between the chapters: commercial breaks, questionnaire sheets the girls filled out, the “classified files.” There were a couple parts that I had to go back and read because I got confused with the sudden shift in the 3rd person narrative, but that is my only complaint about the entire book. Oh! And a total bonus: This book is so funny. They things that happen to these girls and what they do to in response made me laugh out loud.
I think Libby Bray tricked us in marketing this book as a young adult novel. This is, in fact, a book written for adult females so we can look back on our awkward time as teenagers and say “thank god we made it!”

Friday, October 7, 2011

First Grave on the Right-Darynda Jones

Grim Reaper? Say what? Damn. Why didn’t I think of that?

"Charley sees dead people. That’s right, she sees dead people. And it’s her job to convince them to “go into the light.” But when these very dead people have died under less than ideal circumstances (i.e. murder), sometimes they want Charley to bring the bad guys to justice. Complicating matters are the intensely hot dreams she’s been having about an Entity who has been following her all her life...and it turns out he might not be dead after all. In fact, he might be something else entirely."

So this is what I was doing for a majority of the time while I was reading this book: HAHAHAHAHAHA! Oh, this book was so much fun to read. I have added Charley Davidson to my list of awesome characters I wish I thought of (yes, Harry Dresden and Rachel Morgan are on that list). Darynda Jones gave the basic requirements for Charley in the paranormal urban fantasy heroine: sassy, smart, strong, supernatural ability, and sexy. But Jones has managed to give Charley such a unique voice that is so hilarious and nerdy and sarcastic that it helped set Charley apart from the other fantasy heroines. Charley doesn't take herself seriously, knows her flaws and accepts them, and is loyal to all her friends, coporeal and non-coporeal. She's the girl that I would want backing me up in a bar fight because I know she's have my back no matter what, even if we were getting our asses kicked. But at least we'd have fun.

Oh, and she’s a grim reaper. Damn that’s brilliant. But she’s not so much a collecting souls to deliver kind of grim reaper, she is a portal for souls who are still on Earth for some reason on another that helps them cross over to the other side. They can see her from any where in the world. They are drawn to her. I think my favorite scenes in the book is when Charley is describing the experience of a soul crossing through her, and how each soul has their own unique smell.

I enjoyed the multiple plots and who they intertwine with each other though they have nothing to do with each other. Three dead attorneys from the same practice is the first plot, and the second plot is the mysterious Reyes Alexander Farrow (he’s very dreamy and the son of Satan. Yay!). I enjoyed the tale of the attorneys helping Charley solve their murder. I did feel that the Reyes’ plot overshadowed really good story just a bit, but after reading the second book, Second Grave on the Left (review coming soon darlings!) it makes sense of why the Reyes’ plot gets a little more attention.

I loved this book and I think any nerdy sarcastic girl will get so absorbed into this book and get a kick out of knowing that not only are her boobs named “Danger” and “Will Robinson,” but she took the time out to name her ovaries “Beam Me Up” and “Scotty.”

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Bobby Gold Stories-Anthony Bourdain

Anthony Bourdain writes fiction? What rock have I been under?!

“Bobby Gold is a lovable criminal. After nearly ten years in prison, he's no sooner out than he's back to work breaking bones for tough guys. His turf: the club scene and restaurant business. It's not that he enjoys the job-Bobby has real heart-but he's good at it, and a guy has to make a living. Things change when he meets Nikki, the cook at a club most definitely not in his territory. Smitten, he can't stay away. Bobby Gold has known trouble before, but with Nikki the sauté bitch in his life, things take a turn for life or death.”

I love Anthony Bourdain. Almost addicted to him really. I love how snarky he is. I’m a huge obsessed fan of his show, No Reservations. When I read A Cook’s Tour, I loved him more. His writing voice, is just like how he speaks. There’s no pretense with the guy. Imagine my glee when I found that he wrote a fiction book.

That being said, I have to say this book was just okay. Not great. Not bad. Just middle of the road. I have never really read a “tough guy”/mafia book before so I wasn’t too sure what to expect. I enjoyed how each chapter started with a description of what his main character (not hero. Not even anti-hero. That’s being generous) Bobby Gold is wearing and he is doing at that moment. It gave the different parts of the book a time frame and also a peek into who Bobby is. I know absolutely nothing about the restaurant/chef scene but to me, some of the happenings seemed a little blown out of proportion. But then again, this is a novel about tough guys doing tough guy things like breaking his uncle’s arm for not paying up, or beating a guy up for his boss who felt got robbed on a carburetor for his Jag.

To me, Bourdain’s fiction writing structure differs from his non-fiction (duh, of course) with short to the point sentences and images. It reminded me of some early Ernest Hemingway. No, I’m not saying Bourdain is the next Hemingway. I’m just saying that the structure is the same. However, Bourdian's writing voice is still the same. Honest and to the point. But, this kind of writing has its short comings. I felt that there was no emotional connection. I liked reading it, but I just couldn’t connect with Bobby Gold. I mean, he’s a thug, true, but I should still be able to get behind him or even Nikki (who, by the way, is a total bitch). I really wanted to root for him. And I almost did when he found out his best friend and boss, the man he’s been beating and killing people for, was the one who turned him into the cops for transporting drugs, which got Bobby his 10 year prison sentence. I was hoping Bobby was going to kill the little prick, but alas no. Damn.
Would I recommend this book? Only to hardcore Anthony Bourdain fans and those who like novels about “tough guys.” Will I read another Anthony Bourdain novel? More than likely, because well, like I said, I love Anthony Bourdain.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Ghost Story-Jim Butcher

Jim Butcher-I love you. You never disappoint.

So for those of you that haven’t read Changes yet, sorry but…um…yeah…Harry dies at the end. But fear not! His soul lives!

“When we last left the might wizard detective Harry Dresden, he wasn’t doing well In fact, he had been murdered by an unknown assassin. But being dead doesn’t stop him when his friends are in danger. Except now he had no body, and no magic to help him. And there are also several dark spirits roaming the Chicago shadows who owe Harry some payback of their own. To save his friends-and his own soul-Harry will have to pull off the ultimate trick without any magic.”
Once again, Butcher puts the weight of the world on Harry’s now ghostly shoulders. When Harry takes the option to return to the physical world as a wandering spirit to help save his friends and his soul, it has been six months since his untimely murder. He is told that he must find his murderer to save their lives by some other dead guys who are stuck in purgatory.

Dresden’s emotions are just as raw in his ghostly form as they were when he was alive. Rushing head long into a situation without all the facts and thinking he is helping when he is actually making it kind of worse is still what Harry Dresden does best. His reflections of the life he lived and the people he left behind is striking and sad to read. All the supporting cast of the books, Sgt. Karrin Murphy, Billy and the werewolves, Waldo Butters, and Molly, are changed in drastic ways. Butters, however is a positive change. He’s grown a bit of a back bone with the help of Bob, the skull. Which is nice, I like the lil’ Medical Examiner. As for the others, they are harden and paranoid. Molly especially. She carries the secret of how and who killed Harry Dresden. It is driving her crazy with guilt. Literally. She’s now homeless and those who once called her friend, are afraid of the loose cannon she has become. He only figures his death out when he has to save her soul from a bad to the bone necromancer named Corpsetaker. Which, was kind of a cool scene in the book because it’s all Star Trek. Trust me. Read the book. It will make sense.

Speaking of Corpsetaker, I’m a little surprised that she appeared in the book, along with Evil Bob. Corpsetaker disappeared at the end of Dead Beat as did Evil Bob (Evil Bob is a piece of Good Bob’s spirit brain that held all the knowledge of Kemmler, a really, really bad necromancer), so, why re-introduce them as the bad guys? I guess Dresden needs another arch nemesis since he destroyed the Red Court Vampires in the previous book, Changes.


So as much as I loved this book, I actually did have an issue with it. I don’t know why. With all the previous book I have finished them smiling with satisfaction that the story ended where it needed to and that I couldn’t wait to read what was in store for Harry next. I got to the end, and felt, well, slightly disappointed. At the time, I didn’t know what was niggling at me about the end. But, upon reflection, I have realized that there is always some kind of closure. Granted, in the last book, Harry gets killed, but it was closure to one story, and left me wanting to know more. I guess my main issue is that after everything Harry went through as a spirit, he still gets shafted. He awakes with his head in the lap of Mab, the Winter Fae Queen and he still has to be the Winter Knight. I knew there was going to be another book because we still have some loose ends to tie up for Mr. Dresden. But really? Six months. In a cave. I don’t know. Just didn’t feel right.
Butcher’s action scenes are always amazing, describing ghost battles and introducing very cool imagery that lets him get paid the big bucks while most of us squirm in obscurity. Probably my favorite part of the book is when Harry is trying to help Molly save her soul from the Corpsetaker. It’s all inside Molly’s head and it’s a complete battle zone. For some reason, while I was reading it, I kept picturing the Nazi zombie robots sequence from the movie Sucker Punch. Craziness. Chaos. Explosions. Nice. And then, when Harry arrives at Molly’s fort, it’s the interior of the Starship Enterprise. I know! Awesome. There were different Molly’s representing the different member of the original cast. It was pretty fun page turner for sure.
So, Mr. Butcher. Jim. You’re book, hell you entire collection of works, is amazing. I loved every bit of Ghost Story, even the parts that I didn’t get and the parts that I wasn’t too sure about. Though I said I had a slight problem with the end, I have to say, I cannot wait for your next Dresden Files book. And I know it will totally be worth the year-year and a half I’ll have to wait for it to reach my greedy little hands.
Guess I’ll just have to re-read all thirteen books. : )