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Books 34-38

#34: The Lost Hero: Heroes of Olympus Book 1 - Rick Riordan (2010, 557 pages)

It's funny how you find a book by mistake and turn out to really enjoy it. I picked this up thinking it was the first book in the Percy Jackson series. Whoops.

While it is the first book in a series, it's Riordan's second series of books that just happens to feature some of the same characters and setting as the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. So...this is a bit of a backward read, but it's all good. Whereas the Percy Jackson series features the children of Greek gods, this new series tackles their Roman counterparts.

Jason wakes up one morning on a bus with his best friend Leo, girlfriend Piper and absolutely no idea who he is or how he arrived there. But the weird doesn't end there. During the course of their fieldtrip to the Grand Canyon, the trio finds themselves fighting venti, storm spirits, that kidnap their teacher. The teens' lives are saved when Percy Jackson's girlfriend Annabeth arrives.

Back at Camp Halfblood, the trio are called upon by Hera for a very important quest. If they fail, it means the end of the world. As they defeat various monsters and outwit gods, Jason gains little bits of knowledge about who he is. He even meets his sister, but still answers elude him.

The Lost Hero follows very closely to the Percy Jackson series. In fact, although I hadn't read the first Percy Jackson book at the time, I can now say that the two are very similar. They present a boy with no idea of where he comes from who is put into a situation where he is responsible for saving the fate of the world. While similar, both are pretty good. I'm just curious to see where the remainder of the books in the two series go and if they will diverge from similarity at any point. But it's not all bad. In fact, this was such a fun ride, that I give it three out of five demigods.

#35: Summer Rental - Mary Kay Andrews (2011, 402 pages)

After years of living their busy lives, three friends come together for a month to recharge, rejuvinate, and relax at a house on the beach in North Carolina.

Ellis, the one in charge, takes control because she is unable to do so in her own life after having recently lost her job. Julia is a model who realizes her time in front of the camera is coming to an end but isn't quite ready to settle down and do the family thing with her photographer boyfriend. And finally, there's Dorie, a pregnant teacher whose husband left her for another man. The three friends find themselves giving shelter to Maryn, a woman who clearly has something to hide.

And what Mary Kay Andrews book would be complete without a sexy gruff man. In this case, it's Ty, the landlord of the falling-apart house the girls have rented for the summer.

If you're an avid reader of Andrews' books, you'll find that this isn't her strongest book. In fact, the twists and mysteries faced by the characters were pretty easy to figure out in advance. While the setting was different, the situations weren't. I had hoped for something a little different, and the setting wasn't enough to satisfy me. I wanted more from the situations the characters faced, and while Maryn's story was different, it was very predictable, leaving me unsatisfied. I love Andrews' books, but this one just didn't do it for me, which is why I give it two and a half out of five chick lits.


#36: The Walking Dead, book 5 - Robert Kirkman (2010, 304 pages)

Book four ended on a massive downer. The surviving heroes found their safe prison overrun by zombies after an attack by the Governor and his men. Many characters were killed, and Rick and and his son Carl found themselves running for their lives through the woods surrounding the prison.

What Carl doesn't know is that his father is dealing with a serious infection following all of the injuries he's sustained from the Governor. The two hide out in a house, where Rick then teeters between life and death. He does survive, but he picks up a new habit, his way of coping with the loss of his wife.

Once Rick is better, he and Carl set off once more, this time they run into Michonne, and soon into more of their friends. But the reunions do not contain joy as the group witnesses still more of the depravity that man can display. And sadly, more of our favorite characters are killed off.

Each time I get my hands on one of these hard-cover books, I read it in just about an hour. I devour the stories and want to know where things are going to go for the group. I feel their pain and want so badly for them to find a safe place where they can spend the rest of their days, but with humanity gone and walkers constantly searching for human flesh, I realize that is not going to happen. But man, it makes for a great read, which is why I give this a perfect five out of five biters.


#37: The Walking Dead, book 6 - Robert Kirkman (2010, 304 pages)

I couldn't help it. Book 5 left me dying to know what was going to happen (no pun intended) to our weary group of travelers.

The group is now heading toward Washington, D.C., with the promise that things aren't quite so bad there. But of course, that simply isn't true. And while the group should know that by now, it's hard not to feel any sort of hope that somewhere someone has managed to figure this whole zombie thing out and is working to bring things back to normal.

As they move north, the group finds a few scouts for a community that seems to have done just that. After being checked out, the group is taken back to a refuge overseen by a Congressman who is trying his best to rebuild a normal society. But as Rick and his friends settle in, they cannot help but wonder if things are too good to be true.

I, again, read through this book in an hour. It is sooooooo good! I am loving this series of books, and I really need to get my hands on book seven to see where things are going to wind up next. As I'm sure you can tell, I'm giving this a perfect five out of five pipe dreams.


#38: Rot and Ruin - Jonathan Maberry (2010, 458 pages)

Zombies have really been on my mind this summer, apparently. After flying through the Walking Dead books 5 and 6 that I picked up from my local Borders as it was going out of business (tear), I turned to the third book that I had picked up from Borders: Rot and Ruin by Jonathan Maberry.

I had only read one of Maberry's other books, Patient Zero, but it was so awesome, that I knew this book would not disappoint. And luckily, I was right!

Unlike Maberry's other books, which are geared toward adults, Rot and Ruin is geared toward teens, but teens shouldn't be the only one reading this book. It's fantastic!

Benny Imura has just turned 15, and in this post-zombie world, it's time for him to get a job. Problem is nothing sounds interesting, and after many failed attempts, he finally turns to his older brother for help. Tom is a zombie slayer, but unlike the big, burly men who make a show out of killing zombies, Tom is quiet and nimble and had a sincere respect for those he is killing. The brothers are called upon by the town to help save one of their own, Benny's best friend, who has been kidnapped by two of the zombie slayers and is most likely being taken to fight in the zombie version of Battle Royale.

I really loved this book, and I'm looking forward to getting my hands on the sequel, which came out in August. Maberry does a great job of giving you zombies from a different perspective, that of a teenager who is really just learning about the world in which he lives. The action is great, and you are left on many occasions biting your nails from the tension Maberry's built up. I absolutely love this book, which is why it gets a perfect five out of five bites.


Total Books Read: 38 / 50 (76 percent)
Total Pages Read: 12,640 / 15,000 (84 percent)
*many more to come - I'm so behind on posting.

Books 24 -

#24: Regarding Ducks and Universes - Neve Maslakovic (2010, 331 pages)

I found Neve Maslakovic's debut novel quite by accident. Amazon recommended it after I had purchased Jasper Fforde's newest book in the Thursday Next series. I looked at the description and was immediately hooked.

In 1986, the universe split - everyone born before that time split as well, creating a new universe. Everyone born after that date was an individual, having no counterparts in the alternate universe. In addition to discovering the new universe, scientists found a way to travel between the two. Felix Sayers is traveling from Universe A to Universe B, and finds himself in the midst of a conspiracy in which someone is trying to kill him and keep him from discovering the universe bifurcation.

The premise of this novel is very imaginative, and the way in which Maslakovic spins the plot is creative and fun. Sayers is driven by jealousy of a man he once was but never met, and it's that inspiration that pushes the plot forward. I quite enjoyed following his journey, just as I enjoyed this novel. It would be nice if Maslakovic ever wrote a sequel, but even if she didn't, I'd be happy to read anything else by her. That's why I give this a great four out of five duckies
 

#25: Blink - Malcolm Gladwell (2005, 296 pages)

According to author Malcolm Gladwell, every person has the capability to  make positive decisions based upon a split second of thought. With time, we have the capability to understand without formally understanding simply based upon specific details.

Using many examples of how people "thin slice," make decisions based upon few details, readers can gain a greater understanding of how to rely more on intuition than what the facts may seem to reveal. The book kicks off with a fake statue that manage to fool some of the greatest art historians. Other examples focus on how sometimes intuition can fail us in decision making, and that, instead, we need to find a way to slow time down and think things through.

I found the book to be quite fascinating in the idea of thin slicing and how it can work to our advantage. My main problem with the book, though, stems from the fact that, while Gladwell tells us we need to think this way, he does not help provide any ideas for how we can do so. Had he done so, I think this could have been an amazing self-help book, which is why I give it three out of five thoughts.


#26: Handling the Undead - John Ajvide Lindqvist (2005, 364 pages)

John Ajvide Lindqvist, the Swedish author of Let the Right One In, has had his second book translated into English. Where his first book took on the vampire genre, his second novel looks at zombies.

After a heatwave hits Stockholm, accompanied by some very strange electrical issues and painfully blinding headaches, something strange happens the moment the symptoms disappear: the dead start to rise. Following three families as they deal with the crisis, the book adds a sense of heartbreak and humanity to the zombie legend. The dead in this book are not flesh-crazed monsters; instead, they are people who seek their families and the familiar. But no one is prepared for the things that happen in conjunction with the zombie's visit, including psychic abilities and the fear of the unknown.

The reviews for this novel are not all kind. Many readers seemed to expect that this novel be as grand and epic as Let the Right One In. It feels like they don't realize that these books are two very different, yet similar, animals. Both deal with the idea that no one asked for what they are experiencing but are trying their best to deal, and I think that's what holds up some of the readers. Lindqvist provides a sensitive and heart-wrenching look at what happens when your loved ones return from the grave - it's not all gross and gory, nor is it scary and terrifying. But that's what I love about it. It's a new twist on the zombie genre, one in which we shouldn't be hiding under the blankets, and that's why I give this a strong four and a half out of five Swedish paranormal entities.


#27: Button, Button: Uncanny Stories - Richard Matheson (2008, 205 pages)

My journey to discover Matheson's writing continues with the collection of short stories Button, Button: Uncanny Stories. Of course, the most famous story in this collection is the titular story "Button, Button," which was made into the recent travesty of a film The Box. The film proves why it's hard to take a short story and turn it into a 90-minute feature story, and it trashes what was a great story.

Other stories in the collection include "No Such Thing as a Vampire," a fun little twist on the vampire genre; "A Flourish of Strumpets," which tells what happens when sex takes over a small town; "Mute," a heartbreaking tale of how some people must force others to conform, stealing away their gifts; and "Dying Room Only," where two travelers find themselves living the most horrible of stories on the road.

I enjoyed most of the stories featured in this collection, though I was sick when I read it, and think that played a role on my dislike of the stories. Like Matheson's other works, the stories are creative. I love how he manages to take something normal and twist it until it becomes new, strange and even unsettling. But the stories are not all dark, some are sweet, and all are smart, which is why I give this book a good three and a half out of five death machines.


#28: If You Were Here - Jen Lancaster (2011, 306 pages)

My favorite author of comedic, nonfiction essays is back with her debut novel, If You Were Here, and it's fantastic!

Mia and Mac have decided it's time to leave Chicago for the suburbs after one too many run ins with their thug neighbor and socialite landlady. House hunting has become a nightmare, until Mia finds her dream  house - a house featured in Sixteen Candles in John Hughes' hometown of North Brook, Illinois. But Mia's rose-colored glasses leads to the couple having to take on extensive renovations that threaten their careers, sanity and marriage.

If you follow Lancaster's books and blog, you can see the influence her own house-hunting adventures had upon the novel, and that makes it all the more enjoyable. Though Lancaster maintains this did not happen to her (yet), you do have to wonder if some of the situations may have tried presenting themselves, causing Lancaster to imagine such a reaction. Regardless of where her inspiration came from, the book is a great and fun read. I laughed so hard throughout, which is why I give this a perfect five out of five Jake Ryans.


#29: Before I Go to Sleep - S.J. Watson (2011, 360 pages)

Christine wakes up everyday filled with confusion and terror. She doesn't know where she is, who the man lying in bed beside her is, or even who the woman is when she looks in the mirror. Soon Christine learns that she suffered a severe injury in her late 20s that leaves her unable to retain new memories and wreaks havoc on the ones she had prior to the accident.

Another thing Christine learns is that she has been keeping a journal of each day and everything she has learned about herself and her past. Working with her is Dr. Nash, a neurologist who is convinced he can help Christine's condition improve. But as she works, Christine begins to unravel a mystery that will throw everything she has learned into turmoil.

Watson created this novel as a participant in the first-ever Faber Academy Writing a Novel course, and for a first novel, it is absolutely incredible. She builds up such a great panic in Christine's discovery of who she in the book's first chapter, and she creates a fascinating mystery. You're never sure if you should believe Christine or if there really is something sinister going on, and you have to keep reading to find out for certain. I really enjoyed this book, which is why it gets a perfect five out of five strangers in the mirror.


#30: Of Bees and Mist - Erick Setiawan (2009, 404 pages)

There are many books that I love, but few books that I would describe as absolutely amazing and beautiful, wrapped up in a beautiful ribbon of perfection. Of Bees and Mist, the debut novel of Erick Setiawan is once of those books. I have been fortunate to find some amazing debut novels recently, and of them, this book is at the top of my list.

Set in a world where magic and the mundane live hand in hand, the book follows Meridia from her birth through her late twenties. Meridia's life isn't easy, living with her cold mother Ravenna, her hateful and absent father Gabriel, the ghosts in the mirrors, and the mists that hover outside the door to her home. As she grows, she meets and falls in love with Daniel, whose family ranges from sweet and generous to down-right hateful. Daniel's mother Eva is evil incarnate, and her ability to drive bees to people to get what she wants, causes much of the book's tension.

There are so many things I love about this book. First, is the magical world in which Meridia lives. The mists carry away and bring back her father from his nightly trysts, Meridia's best friend is invisible and curses are commonplace. Second is the plot itself. The story of a young woman experiencing cold parents and an evil mother-in-law is nothing new, but the way Setiawan presents it is refreshing and captivating. It's hard not to read this book without falling in love with it, which is why it gets a perfect five out of five stings.


#31: Son of a Witch - Gregory Maguire (2005, 334 pages)

For nearly as long as I have been reading books, I have had a fondness for books that take a familiar tale and twist it to present readers with a new and fascinating point of view. Maguire did so with his novel Wicked, later turned into a smash Broadway musical. He continues that story in the book's sequel Son of a Witch.

The book continues after the death of Elphaba, the "wicked" witch of the West, with Liir, who may or may not be her son. Liir is found some 10 years after her death, battered, broken and near death himself. What happened over those 10 years? From the time he left Kiamo Ko with Dorothy and her band of travelers to the unfortunate incident that brought him back to the monastery where he had been born, Liir's journey has not been easy. After what comes next will change him from a boy desperate to find acceptance into a man living stepping into the witch's former shoes.

My biggest beef with Wicked was that it was a slow read. I loved the story, but it was a struggle to get through. Son of a Witch was a much easier read, and because of the mystery in the opening, you are encouraged to read on to learn where Liir has traveled and what he has experienced. What he has experienced hasn't all been pretty, but you read nonetheless. Liir is a bit more of a weak lead character than I would prefer, but he's not awful. He grows, but I just wish we had been given a bit more, especially at the end of the novel. I feel like it ended at least a chapter early, but maybe the third book in the series will answer the questions I have. I liked it, but I didn't love it, which is why I give this an average three out of five broomsticks.


#32: Darkness Under the Sun - Dean Koontz (2010, 60 pages)

Before Dean Koontz released his novel What the Night Knows, he teased readers with the novella Darkness Under the Sun. The story presents readers with a glimpse of another family terrorized by the serial killer Alton Turner Blackwood.

Howie Dugley knows what it's like be called a freak after being horribly burned by his father. When he meets a deformed giant, he thinks he's found a kindred soul, but as time goes on, he learns that his new friend is much more frightening than he appears. Soon, he learns that his family is Blackwood's next target. Can he save his family in time?

I thought this novella was a great accompaniment to the novel, but to be honest, I'm glad I read it afterward. The ending of this tale gives away how the book will end, something that would have frustrated me to no end. As I said in my review of What the Night Knows, Koontz appears to have gotten out of the slump of writing predictable stories, and it is evident in this novella as well. I enjoyed it, but I mean it, don't read this until you've read the novel. And that's why I give this a good three out of five cases of the willies.


#33: I Am Legend - Richard Matheson (1954, 160 pages)

Before Will Smith and even Charlton Heston were involved, Richard Matheson dreamed up a world where one man seemed to be the only person in the world left to battle the plague of vampires that took over.

Disease has somehow managed to produce vampires. The sick and the recently dead soon come back and will do anything to get Robert Neville, seemingly the only man left on the planet, to join their ranks. Robert, himself, is all too human - tempted by the female vampires who taunt and tease, driven to drink by the despair over the death of his wife and daughter and so alone he will look for companionship in any way.

I must admit to having seen the Will Smith film before having read this, so I had a few preconceptions of what this novel would contain. Boy, was I surprised! The vampires still retain their human qualities, even the power of speech. And the ending. Wow, that ending came from out of nowhere, and I must say, I really liked it, because it was not predictable. Matheson has done it again, creating a novel that is fascinating and not really dated. I really enjoyed this book, which is why I give it a strong three and a half out of five bloodsucking fiends.

Total Books Read: 33 / 50 (66 percent)
Total Pages Read: 10,615 / 15,000 (71 percent)

Books 19 - 23

#19: The Walking Dead, book 3 - Robert Kirkman (2010, 304 pages)

The story of survival continues in Book 3 of Robert Kirkman's Walking Dead comic series.

Still camped at a prison in Georgia, the group is simply trying their best to turn the place into a home. With the zombies maintained and tensions calmed, order finally seems to be coming in the midst of the chaos of the current world.

One day, the group stumbles upon riot gear and find that they are able to reach out beyond the prison to gather gasoline for their generator. But they find that the further they move beyond the prison the more danger they find themselves placed in. And the find just that when they come across a community not too far away that seems to have found its own way to survive the zombie apocalypse. The Governor runs a very tidy town, and he doesn't take too kindly to strangers.

The situations found in Book 3 move on to the more horrific side of humanity when order has failed and chaos reigns. The Governor's tenure of terror brings new but believable horrors to the series, and as the story progresses, it is only fitting that we see some of our favorites severely injured or killed. And that is what keeps readers turning the pages and seeking the next books in the series. Humans are terrifying creatures, and this book perfectly demonstrates that. While horrific, I have to be honest and say that I'm still enjoying the series, which is why I give this a strong four out of five braaaaaaains.
 

#20: Bite Me - Christopher Moore (2010, 309 pages)

One thing I have always been open about is my absolute love and devotion of Christopher Moore's writing. So, when I began rereading his books earlier this year, it was inevitable that I would find myself reading through all the books in the Bloodsucking Fiends vampire trilogy. And giggling the entire time.

Bloodsucking Fiends continues upon the love between Jody and Flood. Book two saw the two trapped in bronze statues by their loyal servant Abby Normal, her boyfriend Foo-Dog and her goth, gay bestie Jared. But when a vampire cat threatens the city, the group have to bring Jody and Flood back together to save the day.

Many readers complained about the story being told through Abby's contemporary voice, but I thought it was a fun and refreshing turn to the series. Sure, Abby's very immature, but that's what makes her voice all the more realistic. I not only enjoyed the voice, but I also enjoyed the plot. How many vampire novels tackle the idea of vampiric kittehs? And then, you just have to love the situations that Moore is known for placing his characters in; they're silly, sordid, and lots of fun. Moore always entertains, which is why I give this a fun three and a half out of four bloodsucking felines.


#21: The Walking Dead, Book 4 - Robert Kirkman (2010, 304 pages)

The story of survival takes a more dark turn in the fourth book of The Walking Dead series.

It is only a matter of time before The Governor's men turn up at the prison seeking revenge. Rick has been grievously injured, though he is doing his best to make do, and after an ambush, one of their own has been stolen away. When the attack does come, the group is at their most vulnerable.

Book four is the most dire of the series, so far. While we've lost characters along the way, the deaths in this book are staggering, brutal, and nothing is held back. If you have a weak constitution, or if you find it hard to deal with the other deaths presented in the series, I don't know that this book would be good for you. It's harsh and stark, but it is incredibly well done. It is only fitting that people be injured or die, but even knowing that doesn't make it any easier to deal with. But you know  what? Despite all of that, it is a great book. I am really glad I read it, and I look forward to reading book 5. So it's only fitting that I give this a brutal but deserved four out of five losses.


#22: Hell House - Richard Matheson (1971, 301 pages)

About a year ago I discovered Richard Matheson's writing, though I had seen many film and TV adaptations of his works. In reading several of his books of short stories, I came to understand why he's been labeled The Master of Horror. Matheson's writing is dark, imaginative and amazing.

Earlier this summer, I took up reading my first Matheson novel, Hell House. I honestly didn't know what to expect, other than I thought that the story might seem dated, especially as it is older than I am. But it surprisingly isn't all that dated. In fact, I could just as easily see this happening today or 40 years ago.

Belasco House, AKA Hell House, is the most haunted home in the United States. Only one person has ever survived a visit to the home, and he is about to join three others for a five-day stay. If they survive , they each receive a sizable sum of money. The group is comprised of Dr. Lionel Barrett, a skeptic who is set upon disproving the house's reputation of being haunted; Barrett's wife Edith; psychic Florence Tanner; and Benjamin Franklin Fischer, the house's soul survivor. Only Tanner and Fischer believe there are spirits present, though Tanner seeks to find the good in the situation whereas Fischer is much more realistic. As the week progresses, the situations faced by the group grow more and more dangerous.

Hell House is a great ghost story. I thought it would start slow and build up as the story progressed in a fashion similar to Paranormal Activity, but fortunately, the horrors stretched throughout the book and the week, forcing me to keep turning the pages. I didn't know where things were going or how they would turn out, but the tension was built so well, that I had to keep reading to find out. Matheson really is a wonderful writer, and I look forward to reading more and more of his work, which is why I give this book a spooky four and a half out of five frights.


#23: I Don't Want to Kill You - Dan Wells (2011, 311 pages)

After successfully killing two demons, John Cleaver is moving on to fighting a third. At the conclusion of Mr. Monster, Cleaver challenged a third monster to a fight. Problem is, he doesn't know who he challenged or how it will strike.

As the book opens, the city finds itself once again in the hands of a serial killer, this one set upon exposing the disgraces and sins of the city's most prominent members. And worse, teenage girls are committing suicide at an alarming rate. Cleaver, again, must control the monster inside him and find a way to save his town from the evil that seems insistent upon tearing it apart.

I won't lie, I love how Wells has been churning out these stories about John Wayne Cleaver. As one book ends, I look forward to learning who the next demon is and how Cleaver will find a way to defeat it. The demon in this book is a good twist on the previous ones, and I hope that it will catch you as off-guard as it did me. And once again, I have been left anticipating the next book and adventure for Cleaver, which is why I give this book a fun three out of five demon eyes.

Total Books Read: 23 / 50 (46 percent)
Total Pages Read: 7,795 / 15,000 (52 percent)
*More books to come. I haven't updated in ages.

Books 12-18

#12: A Hard Day's Fright - Casey Daniels (2011, 292 pages)

I first learned of Casey Daniels' Pepper Martin series when I was sent a promotional copy of one of her books by Penguin. Just recently, I was given a promotional copy of her newest book in the series, A Hard Day's Fright, and I have to say, as usual, it's a fun read.

In the seventh book in the series, Pepper finds herself stuck using public transportation, which of course introduces her to her next mystery to solve. A free-spirited girl named Lucy was murdered in 1966 as she traveled home from a Beatles concert. Pepper is reluctant to solve the case until she learned that Lucy was the former babysitter of Pepper's boss Ella. As usual, though, Pepper finds herself dealing with a sticky situation, this time as Ella's wild child daughter steps in to help.

The last book in the series had kind of drooped, but I think this book definitely got back into the flow of what I enjoyed about the series. Pepper is as feisty as ever, and the situations she deals with keep you turning the pages. The addition of her partner may sound hokey, but it helped prevent staleness. I did solve the case pretty early on in the book (in the first act), but it didn't stop me from enjoying this book, which is why I give it a fun three and a half out of five red herrings.


#13: The Carnivorous Carnival - Lemony Snicket (2002, 286 pages)

After escaping from the Hostile Hospital, the Baudelaire orphans find themselves trapped in the trunk of their nemesis Count Olaf. The car takes them into the middle of nowhere where they stop at a carnival. Disguising themselves as circus freaks, the children continue working to solve the mystery of VFD and escape from Olaf's continuous presence.

While at the carnival, the children learn secrets that will bring them one step closer to the finale of the series and toward their destiny. But in usual Snicket fashion, the children deal with hopeless twists and turns throughout the story.

While Snicket's plotline is very predictable, the story still managed to pull me along. Enough new facts were peppered throughout the story to keep me interested and built up my anticipation toward reading the next book. The series continues to be fun and fascinating for readers, which is why I give it a great four out of five two-headed freaks.


#14: Bloodsucking Fiends - Christopher Moore (1995, 300 pages)

I decided a few weeks back that it was time to revisit some of my favorite Christopher Moore books. I started with the book that introduced me to the author and his unique brand of gallows humor.

Jody is a woman with an average life...until she awakes one evening to find herself a vampire. Adjusting to her new lifestyle takes some time (and the realization that she'll never lose that five pounds she always wanted to), and she enlists the help of a minion, C. Thomas Flood. Flood's a niave 19-year-old from Indiana who works in a grocery store overnight, managing The Animals. Following behind Jody and Flood is the vampire who changed her, leaving dead bodies that point directly toward the two.

Moore is one of the greatest comedy writers. His way of telling a story with bizarre situations, a crazy cast of characters and brilliant wordplay, leave me hungry for Moore. In the case of this book, readers are given a fun story that is far greater than some of the schlocky vampire books we see today. If you want a fun vampire series that features non-sparkling, more realistic vampires, this is definitely the book series for you. And that is why I give this a super-strength four and half out of five minions.


#15: You Suck: A love story - Christopher Moore (2007, 328 pages)

C. Thomas Flood thought he had it all - great job managing a grocery store with his buddies The Animals and a hot girlfriend who just happens to be a vampire. Until she turns him into a creature of the night as well. Now Tommy and Jody have to deal with life as a vampire couple, but they also need to work out just who their next minion will be. Enter Abby Normal, goth teen who is enamored with her new Dark Lord and Mistress.

But all isn't hunky dory in Tommy and Jody's lives. The Animals, back from blowing hundreds of thousands of dollars in Vegas have brought with them Blue, a blue prostitute who is hellbent on pursuing Jody and Tommy's new lifestyle. Also after them is the vampire who turned Jody.

Though it was written 12 years after the first novel, Moore definitely brings back the heart and soul of the first book. In my opinion, this book is even funnier than the first, and the situations he presents may seem outlandish but are totally fun. I also loved the brief cameo of Charlie Asher (see book #16). This book is definitely a fun and great read, totally worth five out of five Dark Lords.


#16: A Dirty Job - Christopher Moore (2006, 405 pages)

Charlie Asher is the ultimate beta male. He's nervous, antsy and anxious that he's way out of his league. And after the death of his wife, when he becomes a grim reaper, he actually does find himself in such a situation. A newly single father, Charlie must raise his daughter and collect souls, with the help of his sister Jane, employees Lily (Abby Normal's best friend) and Ray and Minty Fresh (from Coyote Blue).

Complicating Charlie's soul collection are the Morrigan, three evil spirits who are also searching out the soul vessels to regain their power. As the Morrigan grow in power, the looming presence of the Illuminatus causes all hell to break loose...quite literally.

I absolutely love this book and the situation in which Charlie finds himself. The gallows humor is definitely strong in this book, leaving you giggling throughout. The only thing I didn't absolutely love was the ending. Sure, it's left open for further adventures of Charlie and his daughter, but it just feels so...abrupt I guess. It's a great book through, so don't let that stop you. I seriously believe this book is a nearly perfect four and half out of five Deaths.


#17: This is a Book - Demetri Martin (2011, 268 pages)

If Demetri Martin's stand up comedy and TV show were turned into a book, this would be that book. Wait, not only is this that book but This is a Book.

Featuring short stories, sketches, one liners and other comedic writing, Martin pulls himself into the written world. I think that, because this book is nearly identical to what you've seen of him on TV, it does wear on the reader quite easily. I really enjoyed the sketches, but everything else got really old. Unfortunately, I found myself doing the one thing I don't ever want to do while reading a book: skimming. Even though the stories were all different, they still had a sameness about them that cause me to drift and just skim through to the end.

I really wanted to like this book, but in this case, I think Martin either needs to shake up his writing style or stick with TV and stand up. I wanted something new and different, but I didn't get that. Even some of the sketches are ones from his TV show. So while I wanted to give it a higher rating, I can only give this two out of five bits.


#18: What the Night Knows - Dean Koontz (2010, 442 pages)

Nearly twenty years ago, John Calvino's family was slaughtered, the fourth family to be so by a sadistic killer. And even though Calvino managed the kill the man who murdered his family, murders are taking place that are mirroring the earlier killings. Calvino knows his family is a target, but he can't quite work out how murders can exactly mimic something that happened 20 years earlier by a man who was not able to share all of his secrets.

I will admit it, Dean Koontz's recent books had gotten really lackluster. The plots were unimaginative, the stories lacked suspense, and I seriously am sick to death of super smart kids and Golden Retrievers saving the day. While this book does feature super smart kids, they do have their faults (which helps builds the suspense), and the Golden Retriever is a ghost dog, which in this case, I'll allow. The story had some of the heart you found in older Koontz books. I didn't want to put it down, something I haven't said about Koontz in a while. Hallelujah!

Give this book a try. I'm curious if you find it as enjoyable as I did. I give it a good three out of five supernatural serial killers.

Total Books Read: 18 / 50 (36 percent)
Total Pages Read: 6,266 / 15,000 (42 percent)

Books 9 - 11

#9: The Walking Dead, book 2 - Robert Kirkman (2008, 304 pages)

Zombies have over taken the United States, and a rag-tag group of survivors, led by Rick Grimes, is looking for some place safe to hide from the horde.

At the end of book 1, the group was forced to leave the farm at which they had been hiding. They're not on the road too long before they discover what could be their next home, a prison. As always, the threat of zombies is present, but the human drama that is The Walking Dead wouldn't be complete without interpersonal problems plaguing the survivors.

The greatest thing I appreciate about The Walking Dead is that the situations are realistic, as are the reactions by the members of the group. The only beef I had came early on in book one, but in this book, you see natural suspicions and prejudices, lust, depression, and so many other emotions as the situation takes it toll on everyone. The reactions when people are found murdered are spot-on in my opinion, which is why I really enjoyed this book even more than the first. I give this a great four out of five braaaaaaaaaaains.


#10: Coyote Blue - Christopher Moore (1994, 299 pages)

Sam Hunter, formerly Samson Hunts Alone has found himself with a new companion, Coyote, a trickster god of the Crow people. Sam had abandoned the Crow as a teen and assumed a new life as a successful insurance salesman in Santa Barbara. As Coyote wreaks havoc on Sam's home and work life, Sam also finds himself distracted by the beautiful Calliope Kincaid.

With his life thrown into flux, Sam finds himself called back to his childhood home. Along the way, Sam, Calliope and Coyote find themselves on a crazy adventure that introduces readers to a face that reappears in a later Christopher Moore novel.

While this isn't my favorite Moore novel, it's still a fun read. Moore's distinctive sense of humor is present, and in this case, he definitely pushes the boundary in terms of Coyote's sexual prowess...but in a way that will leave you aghast and giggling. I really enjoyed the plot of the story, and of course, it made me want to rush right out and read some more Moore. That's why I give this a fun-filled three and a half out of five Gods.


#11: One of Our Thursdays is Missing - Jasper Fforde (2011, 362 pages)

Thursday Next, the peace-loving novel version of the Jurisfiction Literary Detective, has been called in to what could be her most difficult case. Instead of acting out the story of Next's adventures through literature (i.e., saving Jane Eyre, helping Hamlet and working with Mrs. Havisham), the written Thursday must find out what happened to the real Thursday.

Written Thursday finds herself in the middle of a plot that leaves her the target of the Men in Plaid, and the only thing she can trust is her robotic servant Sprockett. With readership on her novel down and a cast that is ready to quit, Thursday definitely has the time to save the real Thursday, but at what cost?

It's been several years since Fforde's last foray into the world of Thursday Next, and it was fascinating to see the world through a different Thursday's eyes. Thursday grows so much as a character throughout the story, and it's her journey that makes the story so fascinating. I think Fforde did a great job of bringing us into Thursday's world, which is why I give this a literary four out of five line crimes.

Total Books Read: 11 / 50 (22 percent)
Total Pages Read: 3,945 / 15,000 (26 percent)

Book 8

#8: The Poe Shadow - Matthew Pearl (2006, 400 pages)

There is no greater mystery in the literary world that what happened to Edgar Allan Poe in his final days. And in The Poe Shadow, Matthew Pearl tackles that very subject.

Quentin Clark has it all: a partnership in one of Baltimore's best law firms, money and the love of his childhood friend Hattie. But as news of Poe's death reaches Clark, he puts his entire life in jeopardy as he sets out to learn the truth. Clark tries his best to encourage the police and Poe's acquaintances to show more care, but no one seems to listen. Realizing he's in over his head, Clark heads to Paris to seek out the man who served as the basis for the first literary detective, C. Aguste Dupin. Throughout Clark's journey, he learns there is more to Poe than he ever imagined, and the mystery surrounding the writer's death is far greater as well.

Pearl clearly did his homework in discovering as much as possible regarding the circumstances of Poe's death. Though the tale is fiction, it is centered in fact, driving readers to want to seek out more information regarding the writer and the mystery that was the end of his life. Clark is a sympathetic man, even though he's clearly obsessed and putting his life, career and family at stake. But even as his obsession grows to dangerous levels, you cannot help but turn each page to see where the situation will take him next, which is why I give this a strong four out of five croaks of "Nevermore."

Total Books Read:
8 / 50 (16 percent)
Total Pages Read: 2,980 / 15,000 (20 percent)

Books 6 and 7

#6: The Magicians - Lev Gross (2010, 287 pages)

You know a book is good when you're already excited to read the sequel and you're only one-third of the way through the first in the series.

Lev Grossman's The Magicians takes readers on a realistic journey through the fantastic. Imagine a grown-up version of Harry Potter and Narnia where the characters drink, have sex, swear and act like...well, the young adults they are. And through it all you're following Quentin Coldwater, a young man who dreams of finding something like the magical land of Fillory.

Quentin goes through life thinking there's something more. Even after he learns he has magical powers and is sent to a private school for burgeoning magicians, he can't help but wish for more. That desire leads him to ruin...until he discovers that Fillory is real. He and his friends set off on a journey that will help define the rest of their lives.

I truly enjoyed this book. Yes, it's magical, and you share Quentin's sense of wonderment regarding it all. Quentin is flawed but believable - who doesn't wish there was more to the world he/she already knows? Grossman's writing is realistic, drawing in readers and leaving them inspired, which is why I give this five out of five wishes come true.


#7: A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Hostile Hospital - Lemony Snicket (2001, 255 pages)

A little less than a decade ago I picked up the first in a series of books that would entertain my Baudelairean tendencies. What followed was an enjoyment that would leave me 31 years old and still curious to see how the series ends. So naturally, I borrowed the book from my 11-year-old niece.

In the eighth book in the series, the Baudelaire siblings - Violet, Klaus and Sunny - are on the run from the inhabitants of the Vile Village. The children find themselves in the company of the VFD, Volunteers Fighting Disease, only to learn it's not the VFD they're looking for. But the group takes them to a place that could help them: The Hostile Hospital. 

As always, the siblings find themselves at the mercy of gullible people and the evil Count Olaf and his henchmen. And as always, their adventures leave you excited to see where the next book takes you. Thank goodness my niece owns the ninth book as well. I love this series for how dark, yet educating, it is - that through the siblings' adventures readers can improve their language skills and work on solving mysteries. That's why I give this book a fun four out of five seriously sinister situations.


Total Books Read:
7 / 50 (14 percent)
Total Pages Read: 2,580 / 15,000 (17 percent)

Book 5

#5: Mr. Monster - Dan Wells (2010, 287 pages)

John Wayne Cleaver, the budding demon killer, is back in the sequel to I Am Not a Serial Killer.

Months after Cleaver vanquished the demon that was his neighbor Mr. Crowley, bodies have begun to show up once more. This time, the bodies are female and show signs to torture, unlike the bodies from before. While Cleaver (and the authorities) know that the killer is different, he cannot help but think they are the same.

And he's right.

Cleaver learns the Crowley was not the only demon in a journey that pits him against a sadistic serial killer who sees the teen as a demigod for what he's done. When asked to kill for pleasure, Cleaver makes a decision that will define the remainder of his life.

I enjoyed Wells' first novel, and I think that this novel not only picks up momentum from the first but surpasses it in providing readers with an exciting storyline and some answers to questions readers may have had after the first. One sequence was a bit too much for me to stomach, but I have to remind myself that Cleaver is a sociopath, so I bit back what left me feeling shaken. In all, this is a good book, and I look forward to seeing where Wells takes readers next. That's why I give this a disturbing but good three and a half out of five serial killers.

Total Books Read: 5 / 50 (10 percent)
Total Pages Read: 2,038 / 15,000 (14 percent)

Books 3 and 4

#3: Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal - Christopher Moore (2002, 417 pages)

For years I have been pretty outspoken regarding my love of all of Christopher Moore's novels. And I've been pretty outspoken regarding this particular novel, even going so far as to record a review of it for the podcast Books You Should Read on the Simply Syndicated podcast network. So yeah, I'm a little biased. :D

I must first start by saying that Lamb is a fictional look at the life of Jesus, or Joshua as he is called, told from the point of view of his best friend Levi, aka Biff. And because it's fictional, I would hope that readers realize that there are going to be some things going on here that clearly didn't happen. But I tell you, it all makes for one heck of a read.

Not much is known about Joshua's life for a period of about 30 years. But with Biff's input, we learn that the two of them set off to find the three magi who attended Joshua's birth to learn their secrets. And with that knowledge comes many hilarious adventures, such of Biff's teaching Joshua about sex, since the Savior can never know a woman; Biff and Joshua's encounter with a Yeti; and Biff's journey through the Kama Sutra.

I laughed, but then again I'm a heathen. I also cried, but then again, this is a wonderful story of friendship, and you know going into it that it has to end a certain way. And I learned. No, I didn't learn secrets of Joshua's life; I learned that each life is a daring adventure and we should live it to the fullest.

So sentiments aside, I say read this book. If you're familiar with Moore, you'll laugh at his trademark humor. If you're not, maybe you'll discover how great a comic writer he is and be inspired to pick up his other books. That's why I give this a perfect five out of five journeys of a lifetime.


#4: Homer & Langley - E.L. Doctrow (2009, 208 pages)

Homer and Langley Collyer were two of New York's most eccentric residents in the 20th Century. In E.L. Doctrow's historical fiction account of their lives, the original story is changed, but it is no less fascinating.

The Collyer brothers became recluses following the deaths of their parents in the early part of the century. Homer's is due, in part, to his blindness, while Langley's stems from madness due to his surviving a mustard gas attack during his service in World War I. But while they close themselves away from the world, they still manage to have many adventures, including encounters with hippies and gangsters. Langley's madness adds humor and heartbreak when he does things like install a Model T in the dining room and collects useless junk that piles up throughout the home and unfortunately becomes their downfall.

Written in E.L. Doctrow's beautiful prose, the book is set with no chapters, and the dialogue is written in a style similar to what Cormac McCarthy used in The Road. There are no direct quotes, but you still get the story and the language, beautifully so. I didn't know what to expect from this novel, but I found myself really enjoying it, which is why I give it a strong four out of five hoarders.

Total Books Read: 4 / 50 (8 percent)
Total Pages Read: 1,751 / 15,000 (12 percent)

Book 2

#2: This Charming Man - Marian Keyes (2008, 563 pages)

Since I first discovered one of Marian Keyes' books on a rainy afternoon in 2002, I have enjoyed every book she has written, whether they make me laugh, cry, think, or some combination of the three. This Charming Man is no exception.

Lola, Grace, Marnie and Alicia all have something in common: they all have found themselves at the mercy of Paddy de Courcy, an Irish politician. While he may seem charming and full of winning smiles in public, behind closed doors he is cruel and abusive. Marnie is the first to experience his anger, as a teen, and his lasting impact nearly destroys her life and her family. Lola didn't know that he was seeing anyone else until news of his engagement to Alicia hits the media, and the pain threatens her career, sending her to the far side of the country to recover. And Grace, a reporter, wants to expose de Courcy for the scoundrel he is.

I feel that, as she has continued to write, Keyes' books have only gotten better. While this isn't as amazing as my personal favorite, Anybody Out There?, it is still a great book that features a lot of great twists. It is also heartening to watch Lola's journey to overcome her heartache and learn to love again, while painful to see Marnie's lows. Personally, I related a lot to Grace, because of my journalism background and the desire to expose people who treat others horribly. Not only did Keyes create such strong characters, but she also has given them strong, distinctive voices. 

So if it isn't obvious, I really love this book, and if you're a chick lit fan, you most likely will as well, which is why I give this a strong four out of five vengeful exes.

Total Books Read: 2 / 50 (4 percent)
Total Pages Read: 1,126 / 15,000 (8 percent)

Up next: Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal (reread)

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