Archive for January, 2017

31
Jan
17

She is the fairies’ midwife, and she comes in shape no bigger than an agate stone on the forefinger of an alderman…or at least that’s what Simon LeBon told me. CBR9 Review 9.

unknownMy interest in Shakespeare came from watching a Duran Duran video when I was in the 8th grade. The song was Waiting for the Nightboat, and watching it led me to reading Romeo & Juliet for the first time. Who was this Queen Mab? And why was Simon LeBon so afraid of her? Junior High me needed to know.

All of this came back to me while listening to my Audible boyfriend James Marsters read Summer Knight to me last week.

In the fourth installment of the Dresden Files, we find our friend Harry still struggling with the loss of Susan, who has left town. Harry is working non-stop to find a potential cure for her vampirism, and has been ignoring work, friends, housekeeping, and hygiene. He’s a disaster, and has little to show for it.

He meets a new client, who turns out to be the one and only Mab, Winter Queen of the Sidhe, and it seems that she has purchased his services from his godmother in the Never Never. She tells him that if he does three favors for her, she will release him from his debt, and she asks him to solve a murder investigation for her, of a local artist named Ronald Ruehl.

It turns out that Ruehl was the acting Summer Knight, working for the Summer Court and the Summer Queen, Titania, as well as the Summer Lady, Aurora. His mantle was stolen, leading to a potential shift in power in the Fairy universe.

And so Harry, along with a rag-tag bunch of werewolves, pixies, and changelings, travels across the Chicago of our world, as well as the Chicago of the Fairy world, to find answers.

Meanwhile, the wizard court is still pissed at Harry about what happened between him and the vampires at the end of Grave Peril, and aren’t very excited about helping him out in his quest. Most of them would rather see Harry dead or expelled from the rest of the wizards.

I really enjoyed this one, even though, at times, I had no idea what was going on. I’ve mentioned previously that Marsters’ narration is a bit hypnotic, and at times I lose myself while he’s talking and I’m driving, and that I’ll miss a minute or two of detail. I can’t help it! His voice is mesmerizing.

I love Harry hanging out with Billy and the rest of the werewolves. I enjoyed the little pizza eating pixies. I was glad to know more about Harry’s youth — about Ebenezar and Elaine and what happened to Justin. I liked the world’s created both above and below Chicago, where the Fairies ruled. I liked the new changeling characters (poor Meryl). And I was happy to see Murph back in bad-ass action.

But it wasn’t all good. I really didn’t care for Elaine. I didn’t buy how quickly Harry solved the mystery regarding the stolen mantle. There wasn’t nearly enough Bob in this book. And it drove me crazy when I was listening that I couldn’t differentiate James Marsters saying Mab or Maeve, which was a lot.

Hells bells, the bottom line is that this book was much more fun than the previous three. And I look forward to letting James tell me more about Harry and the magical world of Chicago.

 

 

 

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27
Jan
17

I don’t know if I liked the book or not, but I’d definitely see the movie. CBR9 Review 8.

unknown-1Sometimes, when you read a book, you can’t help but picture the story in your head, almost as if it were a movie. And sometimes, you get the feeling that a book was pretty much written so that it could eventually become a movie. That’s not a knock against the writers who produce books like that really. I just feel like some books are written so that they can someday be watched instead of read.

And I fell like The Sisters Brothers is one of those books.

So evocative of a specific time and place in our world, I could picture every scene up on the big screen.

And then, I saw this in the acknowledgements page:

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And from then on, I pretty much knew who would be starring in the movie version playing Eli Sisters in my brain. This guy:

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Who better to play a killer with a potential heart of gold? (And sure, go ahead, if Will Ferrell wants to play Charlie, why not?). ***

Eli and Charlie Sisters are a pair or notorious assassins during the age of the California Gold Rush. Their primary employer is a horrible, incredibly wealthy criminal simply known as The Commodore. The Commodore hires Charlie (and Eli, by default) to ride down to California from Oregon City, find a prospector named Hermann Warm, take his “formula,” and kill him. And this is the story of their journey to find and kill that man.

Nothing on their journey goes as expected. Eli gets sick. Charlie gets drunk. They get in fights. They kill everyone that gets in their way. And Eli starts to think about his life and what’s next for him. He thinks that maybe this will be the last job for him, and that he might like to open up a mercantile in a quiet town somewhere, with a good woman at his side. Eli starts to worry about being too fat, too angry, too controlled by his brother. And Charlie constantly tells him that he’s never going to be a leader, and that the Commodore only keeps him on the payroll as a courtesy to Charlie. That maybe Charlie will go out and find himself another partner that’s easier to work with. One that doesn’t give him a hard time about his drinking or his attitude.

Eventually, once the brothers reach San Francisco, where Hermann Warm is supposed to be, the story changes from a classic men-for-hire doing what they were hired to do, to a story about taking a chance to change your life for the better and getting revenge on the people who did you wrong.

I liked the story. I liked Eli as a character, even though he really wasn’t a very good man. I liked that he always wanted to brush his teeth or lose a few pounds — it made him very human. But I was also bored by the story. I couldn’t read more than a chapter at a time. It just wasn’t all that compelling.

But as a movie? Shot like a Coen Brothers western? I’d be all over that.

***OK. So I just looked on IMDB and it seems that John C Reilly is going to play Charlie and Joaquin Phoenix is supposed to be Eli. WTF? I’m not down with that.

 

 

23
Jan
17

I really liked some of this book and I absolutely despised some of this book. But sure, I’ll read the next one. CBR9 Review 7.

51nw1cvkp7lA few years ago, my kids joined the swim team at our neighborhood pool. This meant many hours of me just sitting on a chair at the pool, having nothing to do but read. So I assigned myself a “pool book” — one that was longer than I might normally read, just so that I would never run out of stuff to read during practice. So far, just while the kids have been practicing, I’ve read all five books in the A Song of Ice and Fire series (AKA Game of Thrones), and now I’ve read the first two books in The Kingkiller Chronicles. These are some massive books, all of which I’m glad I read, but wouldn’t have otherwise ever picked up if I hadn’t had endless hours to kill.

The Wise Man’s Fear is book two in the amazing story of the amazing Kvothe, who I don’t think is quite as amazing as I’m supposed to. He’s still regaling The Chronicler and Bast with the stories of his youth — his unparalleled abilities as a scholar, an inventor, a fighter, a peacemaker, and eventually, a lover.

There’s a lot to like here. I’m still interested in the magic in this world. I want to know more about how Kvothe creates these amazing inventions, or how he calls the wind. I want to know more about The Chandrian, and why they have to destroy anyone and everyone that speaks their name. I want to know more about his friends at University — I really feel like they aren’t completely drawn as characters yet and some of them have a lot to offer. I want to know more about Auri, the girl who lives beneath the University…who is she, or who was she? I like that Kvothe is still kind of an idiot, and his friends aren’t afraid to tell him so, and to tell him to get out of his own head. I want to know about Bast — where he came from, how did he join up with Kote, why is he paying men to attack his master? And what about those creepy spiders? MORE, please.

But there’s a lot that I’m all set with. Sure, I enjoy knowing that Kvothe is an amazing musician. But I don’t really need a play-by-play of each and every time he goes to perform.

I’m tired of his bickering with Ambrose. Trick after trick after trick after trick is getting exhausting.

I can’t keep track of which professor is which and I don’t really care. They’re all quirky and they don’t like Kvothe very much, that’s all I need to know.

I can’t take another second of his back and forth relationship with Denna. Either be together or don’t.

And lastly, please, no more fairy sex. That was 100+ pages of my life I’m never getting back. Yes, she made you a cool coat. But the rest was mind-numbingly boring.

I’d be a lot more forgiving of these books if they were about 300 pages shorter. The repetition of certain activities is annoying and is really hindering my interest in the plot.

Yes, of course, I plan to read the third book when it comes out. And I’ll watch the TV show if it ever gets made. But I’m glad I’m going to be taking a little break from Kvothe for a while. The kids still have swim practice though…so I’m about to take on The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson.

 

 

20
Jan
17

I was looking for something different to read today, and this girl-power-filled graphic novel fit the bill. CBR9 Review 6.

61fqrdpggl-_sx323_bo1204203200_I was looking for a little pop culture distraction today. Something easy. Not too long. Something I could immerse myself in for a little while and ignore everything else, and then I remembered that I picked Paper Girls Vol. 1 up at the library the other day and said, YES. THIS.

And I’m glad I did. I’m not sure I have a clue what’s going on here. But it definitely distracted me for a little while (in a good way. I think).

Paper Girls is graphic novel all-star Brian K. Vaughan’s newest creation. Its about four 12 year old girls who deliver papers in a Cleveland suburb in 1988 on their bikes every morning. That part I get, and was into. Yay for girls on dirt bikes delivering papers.

In the early, pre-dawn hours on November 1, something weird is going on in their neighborhood. Strange looking guys in ghost/mummy outfits are running around, stealing walkie-talkies, and causing general mayhem. The girls assume they are just some older boys, still out carousing from Halloween, but they’re most definitely wrong about that.

Suddenly, the girls notice weird noises around them and run for cover. Most people in the neighborhood are all of a sudden gone, as if they vanished into thin air. The folks that are left seem to not be themselves…they are “off” in some way.

And this is when I started to be completely confused and not have a clue.

It seems as if there are two sets of futuristic time travelers battling it out for control of this sleepy Cleveland suburb, and our girls are somehow caught in the middle. We don’t ever find out why these strangers are here, or even where or when they’re from. There’s some strange Apple references and a hippie dude who seems to be controlling things. But honestly, I have no clue.

It kind of reminded me of season 5 Buffy, when those weird knights came to destroy THE KEY. I didn’t understand that 100%, but I just went with it.

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When one of the girls is accidentally shot, the creepy mummy dudes try to save her by throwing her into Dalek-like contraption, flying through time and space, healing her with creepy bugs, and then breaking the rules of time travel, which mysteriously kills them but leaves the girl unharmed. Huh?

Look, I like Saga, so I’m going to give Vaughan and crew the benefit of the doubt here. I have no idea what’s happening, but I like the idea of 4 young girls saving the world, so I’ll stick with it.

18
Jan
17

I was hoping for another Wool. This wasn’t what I was hoping for. CBR9 Review 5.

unknownRemember back in CBR5 when we all read Wool and Shift and Dust (also known as the Shift Omnibus) and we all loved them and couldn’t stop talking about Hugh Howey? That trilogy was smart and exciting and we were all fired up about this new name in dystopian sci-fi. A guy who had self-published and made a success out of himself. The story was inspiring and the books were great. We even did a book discussion over on Pajiba, and I truly thought we would be hearing a lot more from Hugh Howey over in our little corner of the internet.

So, when I saw Sand on sale for some ridiculously low price for my Kindle one day, I snatched it up.

And Sand isn’t bad. But it’s no Wool.

Sand takes place in an unknown time in the future, somewhere in Colorado. The world is now one where sand is everywhere. Constantly swallowing up anything that dares to be built in this harsh environment, the sand controls everything and everyone.

Some are daring enough to become “divers,” wearing special suits and boots that allow them to maneuver through the sand as if it were water, with tanks of oxygen on their backs and heat-sensor goggles that let them know what exactly they’re seeing down deep in the sand.

When the story starts, a pair of young divers are brought miles away from town to a secret camp site where some strange construction is happening. They are offered the chance to go on the dive of a lifetime — hundreds of meters below is believed to be the ruins of the city of Danvar, or Denver than was. The divers who find Danvar will go down in history as the greatest of all time, and the bounty down below will be a treasure trove for scavengers.

But the men running the camp site can’t be trusted, and the young divers aren’t rewarded for what they find.

At this point in the story, I was fascinated. The technology and the world created by Howey was unlike anything I had read before, and I wanted to know what happened next.

But what happened next wasn’t nearly as interesting or exciting. Basically, Sand turned into a family drama with bits and pieces of cool dystopian details thrown in.

One of the divers from the first section, Palmer, is from a family of divers and con men. His father, long disappeared, was a great diver but left his family with nothing. His mother does what she can to survive, including selling herself to the highest bidder. His sister is probably the greatest diver alive, but she hangs out with the wrong sort of people to be taken seriously. And his two younger brothers just want to be old enough to dive.

And I really didn’t care. There was some mystery about a secret society on the other side of the mountains, a missing half-sister, and an atomic bomb. But again, I didn’t much care.

What I wanted more of was the sand. The sailboats that the divers raced across the dunes in. The abandoned and pristine buildings of ancient Denver hundreds of feet below the surface. The constant attempts to move and work with the sand. This stuff was genius and these parts shone.

And like the end of the Shift stories, the ending was a bit muddled for me. I think I know what happened, but honestly, I’m not 100% sure. And it didn’t really matter to me either way.

I’m not done with my Hugh Howey experiment. If anyone has any suggestions on another title to try, I’m happy to give it a chance. I didn’t hate this one, I just wish this had been more about the sand and less about these particular people.

13
Jan
17

Two stars for the memoir. Five stars for the moth joke. CBR9 review 4.

unknownNorm Macdonald isn’t for everyone. His laconic speech, his super-dry delivery, and his constant exclamations of “holy crow” are very much of a love or hate variety. I happen to love Norm and was very much looking forward to reading his fake memoir.

And I want to be able to tell you that I loved it.

But I didn’t. And I’m sad about it.

Bunnybean gave this book to Mr Scoots for Christmas and he loved it. HE LOVED THIS BOOK SO MUCH. We heard him laughing all over the house at all hours. I couldn’t wait to read it. I figured I was in for a few laughs.

Sadly, the only parts of this book that made me laugh were the jokes, many of which I had heard a million times. The jokes never get old for me, and I could listen to Norm tell them over and over and not get tired of them.

But the book was more than jokes. It was a fake story filled with fake memories and a pretend race to get the book published so Norm’s gambling debts can be settled without him having to commit suicide.

Oh, did I mention that this book is actually quite dark? Because it is. And while the tone might have worked if I had decided to listen to Norm tell me the story on Audible, it just didn’t work as written.

The story goes a little something like this:
Norm needs money because of his terrible gambling addiction (which, as far as I can tell, is accurate). He signs a book deal and immediately takes off for Vegas with his trusty sidekick, Adam Eget (his trusty sidekick from Norm Macdonald Live) and they get into a slew of trouble. Norm is constantly high on morphine, unable to make logical decisions, constantly about to die. The chapters alternate between this faux reality and Norm’s best “memories” for the book.

Yes, we get to hear about Norm working with his heroes, like Rodney Dangerfield, Lorne Michaels, and Don Rickles, but the way that Norm tells the stories just isn’t funny. I wish it had been a little bit more truthful and a little less fictionalized. I sort of get what Norm was going for here, and that most celebrity memoirs are full of crap anyways, so why not make this one 100% full of crap…I just wanted it to be funnier, or at least filled with something resembling real life.

I didn’t hate the book. It made me smile a few times. It was filled with Norm’s classic non-sequiters, like when he talked about our judicial system and said, “If I’d learned anything from watching Matlock, it was this: Juries hate Hitler” or when he talked about his love for Archie comics and said, “That Jughead is a dirty, thieving sonofabitch, but he sure does make me laugh.”

There is also an entire chapter that is solely a list of Norm’s greatest Weekend Update jokes, and a chapter about the infamous Moth Joke.

 

I still love Norm, and I would read another book by him if he chose to write one. Until then, I’ll continue to watch Norm Macdonald Live or his clips on youtube.

 

09
Jan
17

“There’s something horribly unfair about dying in the middle of a good story, before you have a chance to see how it all comes out.” CBR9 Review 3.

unknownI have to wonder how long it would have taken the general public to figure out that Joe Hill was, in fact, Joe King, if the news hadn’t come out on its own. I feel like — and this is not necessarily a bad thing — Joe Hill exists as the world’s greatest Stephen King impersonator.

Hill shares many literary strengths with his old man. They are both great at creating a community of real characters, and bringing small, New England towns to life. They both thrive when putting the mundane, everyday details of life down on the page. They give you real people to root for in a dire situation, and they break your heart when sometimes these real people don’t survive until the end of the story. They both love Bruce Springsteen. Especially Jungleland.

Unfortunately, junior King also shares some of his dad’s weaknesses. Sex scenes are not comfortable to read. Dialogue is often clunky. And for some reason, both of these guys have trouble sticking the landing. Their endings are often clumsy and confusing.

But the positives clearly outweigh the negatives. I’m not going to stop reading Hill — and there’s no way in hell I’m going to stop reading his dad. The stories are just too good.

The Fireman tells the epic tale of the end of humanity as we know it. A plague has come to end life on earth — a spore of unknown origin is causing people to break out in a dragon scale pattern on their skin, which eventually causes them to smoke, catch fire, and combust, taking down everything around it: other people, buildings, trees, everything.

In Portsmouth, New Hampshire, a young school nurse named Harper Grayson sees a man burn to death on the playground outside her window, and her world changes forever. Schools close, society breaks down, and the world quickly divides itself into the healthy and the sick. Harper volunteers at the local hospital, where hundreds of dragon scale victims are quarantined, with no hope of ever being released back into the world.

Harper and her (HORRIBLE) husband, Jakob, talk about ending their lives before letting the plague take them. But when Harper realizes that she’s pregnant and infected, she changes her mind, and is willing to do whatever it takes to stay alive.

Meanwhile, things between Harper and Jakob go from bad to worse. The morals of the town are quickly deteriorating. Ordinary people are killing their infected former friends and neighbors. And a strange entity known as The Fireman is going out of his way to help the infected, including Harper, find safety.

Eventually, Harper discovers a secret group of infected folks, hiding out at the local summer camp. And these folks just may have found out how to manage — but not cure — this disease. So far, so good. Exciting, dystopian story with engaging characters.

And suddenly, the book switches gears. And I’m not sure I liked this part as well. Now its a story about life in a cult…how leaders and followers are made and how group thinking is never a great idea. I didn’t dislike any of this part, and realize that it was necessary to the plot, but it went on for hundreds of pages, and was definitely the weak link for me.

Here’s what I did love about this book. I loved that Harper was a strong woman who was willing to do whatever it took to bring her child into the world, even if that meant she couldn’t be the child’s caretaker because she had the dragon scale.

I loved the supporting cast of characters. Renee, Nick, Allie, Don, and Gil were folks you wanted to root for, and were nervous that something might happen to them. Because this is a Joe Hill book, you pretty much assume that not all of your favorites are going to make it to the last page, and you grieve them when they’re gone.

I really liked the disease. This was the second book I’ve read in the past few months in which the end of civilization is brought about by a spore (the other book is The Girl with All the Gifts), and its evolution was fascinating.

And I liked the random use of Martha Quinn as the ultimate savior of humanity, playing fun 80s music while she saves us all.

Here’s what I didn’t love.

I didn’t love The Fireman. I wanted to like John Rookwood, but he simply fell flat as a character to me. I never bought that he and Harper were in love, or even really liked each other. He was really just kind of an obnoxious ass who could do some cool things.

I didn’t really get Harper’s obsession with Mary Poppins. It was honestly just kind of weird.

I hated Jakob and his band of murdering brothers. I hated Jakob the minute we first met him, on the phone and saying crap about the disease, and couldn’t wait for him to die. I know that’s horrible to say, but HE WAS THE WORST. And The Marlboro Man? Awful. I know we needed some bad guys, especially some who represent the new Trump America, but I hated every single second that these guys were on the page.

And here’s what I’m on the fence about: the constant references Joe puts in his books to the universe of books created by his dad.

In this book alone, we had quotes from Jungleland (just like The Stand). That’s fine.

We had a deaf character named Nick. OK. Fine.

We had a horribly fat, awful, sexist creep named HAROLD CROSS. This is almost too much for me to deal with.

But Harper and her friends found a case of Nozz-a-la cola, and that worked for me just fine. Because that meant that this story took place far away, on another level of the Tower.

I’ll leave you with Springsteen’s Jungleland. Because if one song can be partially responsible for both The Fireman and The Stand, it must be pretty good.

 

 

 

 




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