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New Year, New Challenge

#1: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest - Stieg Larsson (2007, 563 pages)

Finally, I get my hands on the last book in Stieg Larsson's Millenium trilogy. And I have to say that I'm pretty pleased with the conclusion.

In the first book, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, we're introduced to journalist Mikael Blomkvist and ne'er do well (or so it seems) Lisbeth Salander, who solve a 40-year-old mystery of a missing heir to a major corporation. And then, in The Girl Who Played With Fire, Blomkvist comes to Salander's aid when she is named the prime suspect in a series of murders that you learn have been planned by her scheming Soviet-defector father and the government who helped hide him.

At the end of the second book, Salander's father has been injured, and she has been shot in the leg, the shoulder and in the head. The journey of the third book, from Salander's arrival at the hospital, to Blomkvist's campaign to save her and to the lengths a secret government agency will go to in order to bury her into psychiatric care for the remainder of her life, definitely will keep you turning the pages.

I had to admit, as the book got closer to the end, I worried that the end would be rushed, but Larsson did such a splendid job of wrapping things up in a believable package. My one beef with the series as a whole is that the Blomkvist character is just such a charming ladies man that EVERYONE will hop into bed with him. I feel as though it was the writer's way of living vicariously through the character - I feel the same way about Robert Heinlen's Friday character. But, that small niggle aside, I really enjoyed this book and thought it was a great ending to the series, which is why I give it a pretty good four out of five government conspiracies.

Total Books Read: 1 / 50 (2 percent)
Total Pages Read: 563 / 15,000 (4 percent)
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So close...50 Book Challenge Wrap-Up

It's funny how things work. In 2009, I hit 50 books but didn't make 15,000 pages. In 2010, I hit 15,000 pages but didn't quite hit 50 books. Maybe 2011 will allow me to hit both goals. Only time will tell, I guess.

#45: The Victorian Undead: Sherlock Holmes vs. Zombies! - Ian Edginton, writer; Davide Fabbri, artist (2010, 140 pages)

Seriously. Sherlock Holmes. Zombies. It's the best of both worlds. And that is precisely why I absolutely could not wait to get my hands on this awesome comic series.

This collection of six DC Comics follows Sherlock Holmes and John Watson as they battle against a most formidable foe: Professor Moriarty's zombie.

After a comet hits London and turns its people into zombies. Of course, Moriarty, the criminal genius he is, manages to adapt the virus so that, upon his death at the bottom of the falls, he can continue living but retain all of his evil genius. And that's when he sets up a zombie army that he unleashes upon London. It's up to Sherlock, Watson, and Sherlock's brother Mycroft to save the day.

Maybe it's me, but I'm pretty sure the above paragraphs were gushing just a bit. I seriously think this is not only one of the most creative entries in the current vs. zombies fare but also one of the most creative alternate Holmes stories I have ever read. If you can get your hands on this, I strongly recommend it, which is why I give this an awesometastic five out of five evil brains.


#46: John Dies at the End - David Wong (2009, 469 pages)

If I could sum up this book in one sentence, it would be as follows: This book is what H.P. Lovecraft's night terrors must have looked like.

David Wong, the protagonist of the tale, presents an absolutely out-of-this-world look at his life. He and his best friend John routinely fight ghosts and demons, see people randomly explode and are trying like hell to save the world from Korrok, a beast that is trying to invade Earth.

The book is similar to Trey Hamburger's Ghosts/Aliens in that is is kind of all over the place, giving readers crazy stories and situations but in an absolutely humorous way. I wasn't sure how I would wind up liking this book, especially because I had no idea where the heck it was going or what was going to happen. And that really worked. I found myself wanting to read on just so I could have the answer to my persistent WTF? I can hardly describe it, but I will encourage you to give it a read. That's why it gets a head scratching three and a half out of five floating dogs.


#47: Just Take My Heart - Mary Higgins Clark (2009, 322 pages)

In her elebenty billionth tale of a woman being stalked by an unknown foe, Mary Higgins Clark tries to shake up her process a bit. 

After award-winning actress Natalie Raines is found murdered in her home, prosecutor Emily Wallace must prosecute Raines estranged husband, Gregg Aldrich, for the crime. What Wallace doesn't know is that Raines knew her killer; she had suspected the man of murdering her roommate years earlier. The other thing Wallace doesn't know is that she's living next door to a serial killer, who has his sights set on her.

While Higgins Clark tries to shake up her tale a little bit by having the trail be the major focus of the story, the mystery isn't all that much of a mystery. I guessed the killer within the first two or three chapters, even though he's a minor character. Unfortunately, the guessing is easy, as Higgins Clark is using the same formula. I loved her books years ago, but here lately, they've become some predictable that they're no longer as entertaining. It's quite unfortunate, which is why I give this book a sad two out of five overplayed storylines.

Total Books Read: 47 / 50 (94 percent)
Total Pages Read: 17,599 / 15,000 (117 percent)
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Books 43-44

#43: I Am Not a Serial Killer - Dan Wells (2010, 271 pages)

For the record, John Wayne Cleaver is not a serial killer. He is, however, a sociopath who knows that serial killing is in his future, unless he can keep abiding by his own rules. But when people start dying gruesome deaths in his small Ohio town, Cleaver finds himself captivated that there is a serial killer in his midst.

Cleaver is a fifteen year old struggling to control himself, but between the serial killer and the corpses arriving at his mom's funeral home, it's hard for him to not want to learn more about the town's new killer. But once he learns who and what the killer is, Cleaver finds himself compelled to stop the killing. And who better to track down a serial killer than a serial killer-to be.

I found this book to be quite interesting. The premise of a protagonist who is struggling with what he feels is inevitable to become a killer is a nice twist on your normal teenage protagonist. And of course, the killer, himself, is quite a twist. But I still don't know how comfortable I am with the killer, mainly because the author doesn't give us an explanation for how and why the killer came to be, which I would have enjoyed reading. The good and the bad do a pretty good job of evening out the story, so I feel good about giving it three out of five mutilated corpses.


#44: Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King (2010, 368 pages)

I've heard quite a few arguments that, since he was hit by the car, Stephen King's writing has been kind of...well, not up to his previous level of amazing. I never quite felt that, but I would hope that anyone who has read Full Dark, No Stars would agree with me that he is writing some amazing stuff right now.

Similar to Four Past Midnight and Different Seasons, King's newest book features four novellas: "1922," "Big Driver," "Fair Extension," and "A Good Marriage." And I have to say that each one was a complete knockout.

The first novella can be described as "The Tell-Tale Heart" meets The Grapes of Wrath meets Bonnie and Clyde. To stop his wife from selling the family farm and moving to Omaha, Wilfred James considers the unthinkable - murdering his wife.

Next, "Big Driver" features every woman's worst nightmare of being raped and left for dead. But it's what Tess does next that will leave readers speechless.

After being diagnosed with cancer, Dave Streeter makes a deal with the devil, swapping his family's suffering with that of his best friend. The horror comes not from the bad things that befall his friend's family but in how Streeter responds.

Finally, there is "A Good Marriage" in which Darcy Anderson discovers that her husband is a serial killer, and he knows that she knows. Will she report him, stand by him or something you never even thought of?

Each story is incredibly well written and features King's signature style of horror. It also features his tension, which I think has only gotten strong following Under the Dome, which left me breathless with terror many times throughout. I highly recommend it, giving it a super-strong five out of five breathless moments.


Total Books Read: 44 / 50 (88 percent)
Total Pages Read: 16,668 / 15,000 (111 percent)
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Books 38-42

#38: The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - edited by John Joseph Adams (2009, 454 pages)

I've been continuing along with my Sherlock Holmes obsession. Not only have I read Doyle's stories and watched the Guy Ritchie film, but I've also found the new TV series from the BBC and this fantastic book.

John Joseph Adams called being named to edit this book an "improbable hire." He amassed nearly 30 tales of Sherlock Holmes written by genre writers including Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Anthony Burgess and Tanith Lee.

The stories range from traditional tales of mysteries solved to Lovecraftian themes. The characters are familiar. You see Watson, Lestrade, even The Woman, Irene Adler. My personal favorite stories included Watson traveling to a dimension where Mary was still alive, Moriarity was good, and Holmes was evil; Holmes coming to Irene's aid in finding her son accused of murder; and a Christmas tale with quite a twist.

I've found a few other books about Sherlock Holmes, and I can only hope they are as entertaining as this piece, which is why I give it a super strong four and a half out of five studies in scarlet.


#39: Pretty Monsters - Kelly Link (2008, 389 pages)

I won't lie, what drew me to this book was the cover, which I find to be striking in a dark and beautiful way. I purchased it soon after it was published, but for some reason did not pick it up until recently. And I found that the dark beauty extended beyond the cover.

Link presents nine short stories for the reader, all of which delve into the fantasy or horror genres with a smart and sometimes comedic flair. My personal favorites include: "The Wrong Grave" follows a boy who digs up his dead girlfriend and finds himself being stalked by a zombie; "The Wizards of Perfil," in which two children come to learn the truth about magic; and "Magic for Beginners," in which a boy is called to help save his favorite TV show character.

For the most part, all of the stories are greatly enjoyable. The only story I didn't fully care for was the final story, "Pretty Monsters." It started very strong and pulled me along, but the end just fizzled out, leaving me wishing for more, just not in a good way. I do, however, strongly recommend this book, as Link tells wonderful stories, and her language is simply beautiful. I still give this a pretty good four out of five monsters.


#40: The Fall - Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan (2010, 308 pages)

A few days after vampires began infecting New York and the world in Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan's first collaboration, The Strain, the terror continues in the sequel, The Fall.

The situation is looking more dire for Eph Goodweather, his son Zack, Dr. Nora Martinez, Professor Abraham Setrakian and pest control worker Vasiliy Fet. Vampires have swarmed New York City making every day dangerous. Complicating matters is the fact that the world refuses to believe the evil that lurks in the dark and that Zack's mother, Kelly, who has turned into a vampire, is on their trail.

This book is certain much more dark and dire than its predecessor. As you read, the despair and hopelessness felt by the characters begins to seep into your system, leaving you feeling just as glum. On one hand, I think it's great that the authors can evoke the emotions of the reader, but on the other, I really don't care to feel that low. That's why, as much as I wanted to know what was going to happen and as much as I look forward to reading the third book, I can't say that I loved this book. Unfortunately, I can only give it a dour three out of five vampire bites.


#41: Frankenstein - Mary Shelley (2006, 192 pages)

I am a bad English major. I have read a lot of books in my studies, but there are so many more that I was never exposed to during school. Quite honestly, I don't get why.  One such book that I have never read until now is Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.

Not only am I glad that I read this novel, but I'm glad that it's shown me that everything I know about Frankenstein and his monster are completely wrong. I never realized that Frankenstein wasn't the mad genius of film. He's a man who wanted to know more, then once he realized what he had done, set out to try and right his wrongs. He was misguided, yes, but not a monster. But then again, neither was his creation a monster. Yes, the creature committed murder, but he only did so after being spurned by the human race and after being cast aside by his master. The creature wanted love and acceptance, but instead he only found hatred and fear. Can you blame him?

Another aspect of Shelley's novel that I really appreciated was how it was presented - in a story told to another person by Frankenstein. It was different than what I expected. My only hurdle in regard to this novel is personal. I always find myself struggling with the classics, which is why, while I really love this book, I can only give this a really good four out of five creatures.


#42: The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove - Christopher Moore (1999, 304 pages)

I love Christopher Moore. And I also love his stories set in Pine Cove, California, like The Stupidest Angel and Practical Demonkeeping.

This book is also set in Pine Cove and includes all of your favorite characters like Theo, the pot smoking constable; Val, the town's psychiatrist who decides to give placebos to all of her depressed clients; Gabe, the resident biologist; and Molly, the schizophrenic former actress, who has befriended Steve, a prehistoric lizard who has been eating up some of the town's residents.

The only person who knows how to stop Steve is a traveling blues singer Catfish Jefferson, who faced the beast fifty years earlier. Complicating matters is the Sheriff, who refuses to let Theo investigate anything, lest Theo discover this secret, and it's a doozy.

I love the whimsy contained in all of Moore's novels. He never fails to come up with especially creative situations that leave the reader laughing, which is why I give this book a fun three and a half out of five monster catfish.

Total Books Read: 42 / 50 (84 percent)
Total Pages Read: 16,029 / 15,000 (107 percent)
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Books 33 - 37

#33: The Girl Who Played with Fire - Stieg Larsson (2010, 724 pages)

I won't lie. I'm totally buying into the hype that is Stieg Larsson. After absolutely loving both the book and film version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, I wanted to read the second book in the series before seeing its film counterpart.

Yet again Larsson has given readers an action-packed adventure. Picking up right after the first book concludes, we learn that Lisbeth Salander is taking full advantage of the money she swindled and is traveling the world. When she returns, she finds herself the suspect of a double murder. To make matters worse, a group of men are out to make sure she does not survive the investigation.

Journalist Mikael Blomkvist is back as well, and he will do everything in his power to clear Salander's name. Of course, it puts his own life in jeopardy.

I really thought this book was as enjoyable as the first, though the beginning did start off rather slow. Once Salander found herself on the run, I couldn't stop turning the pages. And now I have to see the film and read the third book. I can't wait, which is why I give this book a very strong four out of five manhunts.


#34: Blockade Billy - Stephen King (2010, 132 pages)

Stephen King has been on a short story bender of late - well, not including Under the Dome. But, like Just After Sunset, King gives us a short story collection to enjoy. Blockade Billy features two stories, the first shares the name with the title, while the second is a tale called "Morality."

"Blockade Billy" follows the brief, yet-cleared-from-history tale of Billy Blakely, a catcher for the New Jersey Titans during the summer of 1957. Blakely is the best catcher the team has ever seen, but his secret destroys the team. What I loved best about this story was the narrative, which was told from the perspective of the team's manager in present day. King writes as though the manager were spinning the yarn to him, which gives it a folksy vibe.

"Morality" shows just how far some people will go for the almighty dollar. When a young wife is asked to undertake a sin by a priest who is nearing death, she does so thinking it will help save her family from their money woes. But what she receives in return shows just how far in over her head she became.

I thought this book was okay. The stories weren't horrible, but neither really wowed me. The first probably would have, had I cared more about baseball. The second just seemed rather...well, almost predictable, though I will say that the sin is pretty original. I will keep the book on my shelves, as I collect first-edition copies of King's books, but I probably won't read it again any time soon, which is why I give it a rather blah two out of five outs.


#35: Tomb with a View - Casey Daniels (2010, 292 pages)

The Pepper Martin series continues with the sixth novel, Tomb with a View.

After her boyfriend walks out on her when she confides about her ability to see ghosts, Pepper is angry. So she doesn't have time to assist the cemetery's resident James A. Garfield specialist prepare for the anniversary of the President's death.

And why she doesn't care to help work with the woman, Pepper cannot help but get involved when the woman is found murdered in President Garfield's tomb. Of course, that brings her ex back into the picture, and between him and the ghost of President Garfield, they're enough to nearly drive Pepper nuts.

I really enjoy the Pepper Martin series, and while this isn't the greatest book in the series, it's not the worst. I found myself relating more with Pepper in this book than in others, especially when dealing with her coworker, who is hateful enough to make you want to tear your hair out. I found the plot to be unique, and the story was fun. I have to give this a pretty good three out of five mystical mysteries.


#36: Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Novels and Stories, vol. 2 - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1986, 737 pages)

I'm sad now. I've officially read every Sherlock Holmes story written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. No more new Holmes for this girl. :(

But, just because I'm sad that the stories are no longer new to me, I am really happy that I set my summer goal to read all of the Holmes' mysteries. And this book contained some of the big ones like "The Hound of the Baskervilles," which actually kicked off the book.

Just as with the first volume of Sherlock Holmes novels and stories, this volume kept me hooked from start to finish. Holmes is a fantastic mind, and I again tried to see if I could see where Doyle would take the master sleuth. I also enjoyed that, in a few cases, we got to see the mysteries from Holmes' point of view, as Dr. Watson was not around for them. I loved the changed perspective, and it only deepened my love for that amazing character.

I am such a Holmes geek. I'm now looking forward to see where other authors have taken him. But Doyle certainly is the master, which is why I give this collection a superb five out of five conundrums.


#37: Scott Pilgrim, vol. 1: Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life - Bryan Lee O'Malley (2004, 168 pages)

Scott Pilgrim is your average loser. He's 23, sharIes a bed with his gay roommate, doesn't have a job and is dating a high school girl.

But then Ramona Flowers walks into the picture, and his life is forever changed.

Even before meeting her, Ramona is rollerblading through his dreams. Then, once he does meet her, he worms his way into her life and talks her into dating him. But it's then that he learns that Ramona has seven evil exes, all of whom Scott must defeat before he can successfully date her.

Ever since I saw the preview for the film this past spring, I've been wanting to read the books. Luckily, it's a very quick read, and even if you're not the biggest fan of graphic novels, this is a fun book to pick up and peruse. I enjoyed seeing the hole Scott dug himself into, to the point that I can't wait to read the next one, which is why I give this a fun four out of five exes of doom.

Total Books Read: 32 / 50 (74 percent)
Total Pages Read: 14,382 / 15,000 (96 percent)
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Books 31-32

#31: Sherlock Holmes The Complete Novels and Stories vol. 1 - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1986, 1,059 pages)

Ever since I was a little girl, Sherlock Holmes was one of my absolute favorite fictional characters. I won't lie, I had a crush on him, even though I knew I never stood a chance, being that he's fictional and all.

I remember reading some of the stories, the most famous ones of course, like The Speckled Band and The Hound of the Baskervilles, but I felt like I was missing out. So, earlier this summer, I decided to take on all of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories. And, so far, I'm so happy to have done so.

Anyone who loves mysteries and detective novels should be familiar with the history, and I really do recommend this book for that. Holmes is a brilliant mind, and the cases that Doyle created for him are very well-crafted and stimulating. I loved reading along trying to see if my theories matched up with Holmes, but of course, there were many times when the situation blew me away. I could probably gush about this for ages, so instead, I will just say that I strongly recommend this book, giving it a whopping five out of five locked door mysteries.

#32: Dead Man Talking - Casey Daniels (2009, 291 pages)

Pepper Martin's investigations for long-ago mysteries continue in the fifth book in Casey Daniels' series. This time, Martin finds herself as a contestant on Cemetery Survivor, a reality show about restoration efforts at one of Cleveland's historic cemeteries. Stuck on a team with five criminals, Pepper must not only navigate their issues but also help solve the case of a prison warden who was falsely accused of murdering his secretary.

As with Daniels' other Pepper Martin mysteries, Pepper walks a dangerous line between solving the crimes and doing her job. In this particular case, she's got the added presence of television cameras. And then there's sexy police office Quinn, who doesn't want any new dangerous things coming Pepper's way.

I love Daniels' books, but I have to admit that, of the five that I've read, this one is the weakest entry. The ending is rushed, and I just did not feel satisfied by how easily it was wrapped up. But I am hoping that the sixth book picks up, especially as it involved the ghost of President James A. Garfield. I'd recommend this book for purists who want to read the whole series, but otherwise, skip it. That's why I give it two and a half out of five spirits.


Total Books Read: 32 / 50 (64 percent)
Total Pages Read: 12,329 / 15,000 (82 percent)
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Peppermint

About five years ago, I found a contest on Writing.com that seemed like a great challenge. In 100 words, I had to write a piece of flash fiction. The catch: I could only use each word one time. So, this is what I came up with...and surprisingly, it received an award. So, for your reading pleasure....

Peppermint

Peppermint flavor remained on Jena's lips after their kiss, leaving her wondering how an icy tingle lingered though Sam hadn't eaten solid food in more than a week. Fingers drifted, briefly warming the cool sensation. Looking down, she saw only his body waiting for death's arrival. Tears formed then coursed faint trails through pale pink foundation, grabbed desperately at that stubborn chin before leaping, stain blooming below.

"I'm sorry I have no choice." Weak whispers fell to deaf ears. "Doctor Gordon says you'll never come back. It hurts but must be done. Goodbye."

World dimmed; life ended; pain stuck around.

 

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Books 26 - 30

#26: The Water Room - Christopher Fowler (2004, 356 pages)

Something strange is going on in a London neighborhood, and it is up to John May and Arthur Bryant of the Peculiar Crimes Unit to figure out what exactly it is. An elderly woman was found in the basement of her home, sitting in her dry basement. Cause of death - drowning.

As the case unfolds, the story follows some bizarre twists and turns. The home's new owner is being stalked by a homeless man, neighbors are turning up dead in the most bizarre manners, and for some reason, people are obsessed with the system of rivers that run underneath the city.

I have to admit that I was drawn in instantly by the story synopsis, and the story wasn't bad. My problem was just that it was rather dry. The characters are unique and well-written, but the story just lags and drags. It's got exciting situations, but it misses the excitement that makes you want to keep turning the pages. I liked it, just not enough, which is why I can only give it two out of five oddities.


#27: No Reservations: Around the world on an empty stomach - Anthony Bourdain (2007, 288 pages)

Enjoy watching Anthony Bourdain's adventures on the TV show No Reservations? Well, then this is the book for you.

No Reservations is a photographic compendium of the places, faces and foods that Bourdain experienced while filming his show. The book does not retell the show. Instead, it reaches beyond to give you more about the trip and things that went on behind the scenes.

The photographs included in the book were taken by the show's producers, and they are absolutely brilliant. At times, your mouth will water. At others, you'll cringe at what you're seeing. And at others, you will find yourself absolutely amazed by the breathtaking beauty of it all. I loved every minute of this book. It made me want to share Bourdain's experiences and make a few memories of my own in the process, which is why I give this a strong four and a half out of five thalis.


#28: Twenties Girl - Sophie Kinsella (2009, 435 pages)

Lara Lington seems to be on a downward spiral. Her boyfriend has left her with no explanation. The business she opened with her friend seems dooms after her friend fails to return from vacation. And now she's stuck with the ghost of her fiesty great-aunt Sadie.

Lara agrees to help Sadie find a diamond necklace so the ghost can rest in peace. In the process, she finds her life turned upside down as Sadie starts leaving her influence on Lara's life.

I've read all of Kinsella's book, and I can easily say that this is her absolute best. The Shopaholic books are fun, Can You Keep a Secret? and Undomestic Goddess are unique and entertaining, but none of Kinsella's other books left me with such a positive feeling afterward. This book is beautiful, sweet and even inspiring. I can't see how anyone could read this and not be inspired to do new things and live as Lara learned to. I love this book so much it gets a super-strong five out of five familial specters.


#29: Let the Right One In - John Ajvide Lindqvist (2004, 472 pages)

Oskar is a 12-year-old loser. He's bullied and obsessed with death, to the point that you can easily see him becoming a murderer if things keep up. And then Eli comes along.

Eli inspires something new within Oskar. Not only does he have a friend who likes him for who he is, but he also has someone who makes him feel special. She offers him advice to stand up to his bullies, which he takes, making him feel powerful. But Eli has her own secrets, which Oskar comes to learn. And after her caretaker disappears, she needs Oskar's help to survive.

I loved the film, and it was only natural that I take up this book. It is such a great read. The film closely follows the book, with only a few changes. It's well-paced, and gives you new look at the vampire genre. It's refreshing in that respect. Lindqvist has written a very original story that pulls the reader along in a wonderful mix of suspense and curiosity, which is why I give this book a great five out of five blood-sucking fiends.


#30: The Walking Dead (Book One) - Robert Kirkman with art by Tony Moore, Charlie Adlard and Cliff Rathburn (2008, 304 pages)

Zombies have overtaken the world, and very few humans appear to remain. A group of survivors, who were sent to Atlanta in the hopes of finding a safe place, are now traveling across the country seeking food, shelter and safety from the undead hordes.

The group consists of characters including Rick, a former policeman who was left in a coma during the zombie outbreak; his wife Lori and son Carl; Shane, Rick's former partner; Allen and Donna and their twin sons; sisters Andrea and Amy; retired traveler Dale; Carol and her daughter Sophia; and Glenn. Their journey for survival is harrowing at times, and not all characters make it through the relentless attacks by the undead.

The interesting twist about The Walking Dead is that the zombies are only secondary characters. The "meat" of the story is in the humanity that follows the downfall of civilization. I really enjoyed that, and I breezed through this book of graphic novel issues in two hours. It's a great and suspenseful read that I highly recommend, which is why I give it a zombtastic five out of five undead ghouls.


Total Books Read: 30 / 50 (60 percent)
Total Pages Read: 10,979 / 15,000 (73 percent)
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The Shadow

The other night I found a treasure trove of old notebooks while trying to find a specific short story I had written years ago. I didn't find the short story (Rosie did that earlier today! Hurray, Rosie!!), but instead I found quite a few other short stories that I had written. I think I'll post one every so often for you all to read and (hopefully) enjoy.

This particular tale was one I wrote as a writing assignment. I had to write a twist to a mystery. I don't think I fully did what I was asked, but I wasn't too upset by the just-under-one-page result.

So, here's the first of several forgotten short stories. Enjoy!



The Shadow
Written circa 2001

Standing silently in the alley, the shadow waited for fate to come around the corner. The last time, the shadow received its due in the form of a busty, leggy lady of the night. The interchange happened quick, almost too quick to receive any proper satisfaction.

 

She got what she deserved, regardless of what the headlines screamed. Although, the shadow did get a copy of each one. Something to brag about to the psychologists in the unlikely event of capture.

 

The new millennium’s Jack the Ripper had several things in common with the original. Victims of this merciless killer were prostitutes who partook in more than their fair share of alcohol. This night stalker also chose to remain under the cover of darkness.

 

Tonight, fate chose to bring about a tiny woman. She would be easy. The silver fuck-me-now stilettos, combined with the knee-length leather skirt would definitely prove to be advantageous. Surely, they would send her falling if she put up a struggle.

 

The knife was freed of its case as the shadow prepared to strike. The woman struck out down the alley, head moving frequently as she checked to make sure she was alone. Her goal was more than likely the pay-by-the-hour motel at the far end.

 

The shadow smiled, relishing every clop of the heels on the pavement that brought the woman one step closer. Anticipation tightened the shadow’s chest to near bursting. This was going to be fun.

 

Except, it wasn’t.

 

The shadow stepped out, cutting off the prostitute’s trek. Confusion replaced the joy and then itself was replaced by fear. She was smiling.

 

“Gotcha, you sick son of a bitch,” she said as many small clicks sounded off being her.

 

Looking past the woman, the shadow was face to face with a gaggle of police officers, weapons drawn and ready to fire. So maybe the scrapbooks would be made public.

 

“Of course,” the prostitute continued, pulling cuffs from her bag, “I never would have guessed that you were a woman.”

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Goodbye is Always the Hardest Part

Today, while trying to find a notebook in which I can write more of my novel, I came across a short story I had written during one of my master's classes. I decided to type it up, since I have a lot of random stories floating around my apartment that haven't seen anything other than the college-lined pages of a spiral notebook. Better typed and saved where I can find it accidentally finding its way to a trash can. So, after typing it, I thought I'd post it online. This is not related to my novel. Instead, it's just a one-page story I wrote once upon a time. 

Enjoy!

Goodbye is Always the Hardest Part

Though the sentiments of the kiss lingered, the soft, yet insistent passion of the act itself faded as Jon disappeared with the crowd lining up to pass through security. Anna’s fingers drifted up to press against her lips trying to contain the pressure of Jon’s lips. He would only be away for two weeks, but it would be the first time they had spent more than a few days apart. The relationship had moved quickly, and though I love you had not been said directly, it was implied in every lingering embrace and gentle caress. Anna knew she could get by without them but jealousy wished anyway that they sacrifice wasn’t necessary.

 

A tear burned at her right eye and pressure formed against her chest, sobs threatening to burst forth from within her. Melancholy began to cower at the edges of her, waiting to cowardly slink in and force the tears out. Anna needed to calm herself, at least until she could reach her car and mourn Jon’s leaving in private.

 

She turned, a soft pivot toward the escalators leading to the parking lot. The chocolate tiled walkway spiraled around her as a new tear formed in her formerly dry left eye. She blinked away the unwelcome intrusion but the salty drop was insistent. Anna bit her bottom lip to distract herself, but even that was of no use. She needed to hurry.

 

Her shoes normally whispered along, but today they tap danced a rapid staccato that matched her jagged breathing. The flight of stairs that led up to her parking level loomed, the only obstacle remaining in her path to the sanctity of her car. Walking down it, a happy couple, arms linked and dragging matching suitcases behind them, approached with a bubble of heart-crushing envy pulsing toward Anna. Knowing it wasn’t their fault that she missed Jon was not enough to keep her from shrinking out of their way as they clattered by without so much as a glance in Anna’s direction.

 

Anna darted up the stairs, nearly tripping at the top as her toe caught on the final riser. She burst into the lot and rushed to her car. The tears began drifting down her cheeks, and she gulped in gasps of air as she struggled with the door’s lock. So close now.

 

The lock gave, and Anna tore open the door, falling down onto the seat. The moment the door shut behind her, a great sob burst from within her. She heaved in a wretched breath, preparing for a follow up wail when her pocket began to chirp. She reached down into her jacket and withdrew her phone.

 

One new message.

 

“You haven’t been out of my sight for five minutes, and I already miss you so much.”

 

The tears continued falling, but the sobs were replaced with a smile that beamed all of Anna’s love for Jon.