Monthly Archives: October 2012

R.I.P VII Review: My Life As A White Trash Zombie by Diana Rowland

My Life As a White Trash Zombie (White Trash Zombie, #1)As part of the R.I.P. VII, I finally dusted My Life As a White Trash Zombie off the TBR shelf and  read it.  While it’s not your typical zombie novel, it’s a lot of fun in that popcorn book kind of way.

Anyway, here’s the full review:

 

Angel Crawford is a self-professed loser.

A high school drop-out, she staggers from dead-end-job to dead-end-job. She regularly drowns her sorrows at the local dive bar with her on-again, off-again boyfriend who repairs cars and while he lives in a trailer, he’s got the best in high electronics.

All that changes one night when Angel wakes up in a hospital after what she believes was a severe bender. She can’t recall what happened, but a mysterious note tells her that a job as the driver for the local coroner’s office is hers and that she has to drink a series of mysterious shakes every other day for the next few weeks.

Angel takes the job at the coroner’s office and to her surprise finds that she’s not repulsed by the cadavers. Instead, she’s suddenly found an iron stomach and a strange fascination with brains.

Turns out Angel has been turned into a zombie. But if she eats a brain every day or so, she won’t rot–in fact, she can regenerate wounds fairly quickly with the help of a tasty brain or two. What Angel doesn’t know is who the mysterious benefactor is who changed her to zombie, the hierarchy of the local zombie community for distributing brains to snack on and whether or not a serial killer is targeting the local zombie population.

With a title like My Life As a White Trash Zombie, this novel was hard to pass up in the bookstore. It sounded like a lot of fun–and the story does have its moments. Angel is likeable enough to help keep the plot moving forward, though there is some initial frustration because we know from the title what’s happened to Angel while she’s still piecing it all together. The book has humor, romance and a bit of brain eating gore. It’s a fun read and while I don’t expect this one to be up for any major prizes, it’s still enjoyable enough that I may pick up the next installment in the series at some point.

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Review: Trust Your Eyes by Linwood Barclay

Trust Your Eyes

Linwood Barclay’s latest thriller Trust Your Eyes has receive a lot of pre-publication buzz, capped off with a cover blurb and recommendation by Stephen King. Most of the time, if King recommends a novel, I’ll pick it up and try it because I’ve had good luck with King recommendations in the past (it was King’s recommendation in EW that turned me on to the genius that is Laura Lippman).

And for the first half of Trust Your Eyes, I agreed completely with King–the book is riveting and a page-turner in that popcorn thriller kind of way. But it’s once the book hits its midway point that things derail a bit, taking the book from a four star recommendation down to a three and a half star one.

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TV Thoughts: Arrow, Nashville

Arrow: Pilot

While I tuned into Smallville on and off for most of its ten seasons, I can’t ever say I was really a huge fan.  Part of it my initial TV snobbery, dismissing it as little more than a hybrid of Buffy and the X-Files (though to its credit, Smallville‘s explanation of  x plus kryptonite equals wacky happening made a bit more sense than some of the later seasons of the X-Files attempts at explaining wacky events).

I watched enough to know that Green Arrow was part of the last couple of years of the show and that a vocal contingent of fans would like it if the character as portrayed on Smallville had got his own spin-off.

I wasn’t necessarily one of them and after watching the pilot, I’m glad this series is starting fresh.   I’m not a huge Green Arrow fan (in fact, I’ve read none of the comics featuring him and have no clue about his mythology) but it seems like the pilot episode has taken a page from the recent Christopher Nolan films and kept the hero a bit more grounded.  I’m not saying that it’s realistic that a guy would survive on a desert island for five years, all the time bulking up and training himself for a mission to clean up his city.   But there’s a darker, grittier feel to Arrow than we got from Smallville–and there are a whole lot of echoes of Batman, which could be exactly what the CW is going for here.  OK, so Oliver Queen only has one dead parent and a mother who is apparently not happy that he’s back, but there’s a whole lot of room for angst.  He’s also got a member of the house staff who believes in him (though it’s the maid and not the butler in this case) and he’s got access to lots of money and his own version of the Batcave.

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Booking Through Thursday — Save Me

btt button

If your house was burning down and you could save just one book from your collection … what would it be?

(And, for the purposes of this discussion, we’ll allow series to count as “one” long, multi-volume book.)

Assuming I’d already got out the photo albums with the rare and old family photos as well as notes on them from my grandmother, I’d probably grab my autographed copy of Lake Wobegon Days by Garrison Keillor.  One of my favorite books and he personalized it for me along with his signature.

 

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Review: And When She Was Good by Laura Lippman

And When She Was Good

Along with Elizabeth George and Michael Connelly, Laura Lippman is mystery writer whose usual who-done-its transcend the genre. So it’s interesting that for her latest novel, Lippman steps outside the familiar ground of a straight-forward mystery novel and gives us a character study of a suburban madam.

Alternating between the past and the present, Lippman lays out the circumstances that led to Helen changing her name to Heloise and trying to escape her past. Fathered by a man cheating on his wife and stringing her mother along that maybe he’ll someday leave his wife and other family for them, Helen grows up desperate for her father’s attention and approval. Told at an early age that she has a “nothing face,” Helen hitches her wagon to the washed up, drug addicted son of her boss at a local Italian restaurant. He convinces her to drop out of high school, rob the restaurant and head out to the big city with him.

Before you know it, Helen is caught up in a life of prostitution as she tries to escape one bad situation and ends up in a worse one. Out of options, Helen’s one solace is sneaking to the library to lead the great classics of literature and trying to improve her mind while finding a way to improve her station in life.

Eventually her on-again, off-again pimp boyfriend is sent to jail for murder and Helen decides to try and leave her past behind. As a single mother, Helen sets up an escort service, full of rules and regulations for her girls to follow and adhere to. But the past is coming back to haunt Helen (now known as Heloise), just as she’s thinking of looking for a new lot in life for she and her son.

A stand-alone novel by Lippman, this one is less a mystery (though there are some elements of your typical mystery included here) and more a character study thriller. Lippman alternates between the present and the past, filling in details on what led Helen to her current situation and information how and why she’s made certain decisions in her life. On one level, the stakes are lower than your typical Tess Monagahan mystery, but on other levels, they’re much higher.

An atypical Lippman novel, this one works because of the crafting of Helen/Heloise as a character. A bit of an anti-hero, Lippman keeps up close enough to feel for what she’s going through and the events that led her to this point in her life, but at enough of a distance so her life isn’t being necessarily celebrated. It’s a fine line to walk and Lippman does it with ease. Don’t expect the happy hooker with a heart of gold here. Heloise is fiercely devoted to her son but also ruthless in keeping what she does in her business on the straight and narrow…well, as straight and narrow as an escort service can be.

This is a very different novel from one of the best writers on the market today.

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Review: Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon

Telegraph Avenue

When a book has as much pre-publication hype and praise as Telegraph Avenue has been getting, it’s easy to get expectations of the “next great American” novel in your head. (It’s probably not helped that the cover jacket conveys this same sentiment)

And while I liked much of what Telegraph Avenue did and I have a general affection for Michael Chabon as a writer, I still came away from the book feeling like it’s not the sum of its parts. On the surface, half of the book feels like it’s treading the same ground as High Fidelity in terms of centering on guys who work in a record store and reflect on life. However, while the two novels begin at the same point, that’s where the similarities end.

Chabon does a nice job of constructing sentences and phrases, but there were times during the novel I felt like he was trying too hard. I kept thinking to myself, “Just get to the point already.” Not just in term of sentences or choice of words but also the novel as a whole.

In the end, I came away wanting to love this one more than I did. I liked it and I’d recommend if if you’re curious. But it’s not a favorite and not one that I’m likely to re-read.

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Review: Spock Must Die! by James Blish

Star Trek: Spock Must Die!

One of the first original Star Trek novels written, “Spock Must Die” is a product of an entirely different era in Trek publishing. Veteran sci-fi writer James Blish famously adapted most of the original 79 episodes of classic Trek as short stories in a series of 12 collections. (For many fans, like myself, these collections were an essential part of our discovery of the original series in the days before we could watch any episode we wanted any time we wanted via video-tapes, DVD collections or streaming). Their success and fan letters encouraged him to try his own hand at crafting an original Trek story and the result is “Spock Must Die.”

“Spock Must Die” is a far more philosophical novel than many of the Trek tie-ins published today. It’s also a lot more sweeping in its scope than many of the Trek novels published today. And yet it weights in at just a mere hundred and twelve pages.

The central philosophical issue is raised on the first page of the story with McCoy (who is inadvertently called Doc instead of Bones due to an editing error at the time) debating Scotty on the implications of using the transporter. McCoy wonders if the person who steps into the transporter and is beamed down is the same person who arrives or if you’re just a relatively close duplicate of a person who no longer exists.

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Doctor Who: The Angels Take Manhattan Review

I didn’t cry when Adric died.  Nor did I cry when Rose Tyler left (the first time).  (I was honestly a bit relieved since I’d wearied of her character and the multitudes who declared her the best companion ever…)

Sarah Jane Smith’s departure, while bittersweet, didn’t get me all misty-eyed.

I will admit that as the Ponds made their departure from Doctor Who this week, not only did I have a lump in my throat, but I was also fighting back tears like I did in the first ten or so minutes of Up.

Damn you, Steven Moffat.  You got me.

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