Sunday, January 30, 2011

Book Review: Chestnut King by N.D. Wilson

I'm back from Ranting Land to talk about something much more pleasant to all, and what's really the point of this whole blog in the first place.

So, Chestnut King by Nathan Wilson

What can I say about this book? It was absolutely amazing.

The book starts out with a bang. The family is scattered to the four winds as they all set out, willingly or unwillingly, on different quests: Henry's father and Uncle Caleb go to Endor to confront the witch; Franklin the faeren is taken to the Chestnut King, and eventually Henry must make his way there. The witch's grip is becoming stronger and her forces grow greater. And everyone says Nimiane cannot be killed, which is really kind of what everyone is trying to do.

So, with everyone going everywhere, and a lot of things happening at once (as well the poor townsfolk of Henry, Kansas seeing all sorts of odd things going on without understanding them at all), there's plenty of action. The book moves along seamlessly, with just the right amount of breathing room in between the fast-paced sequences. Wilson made a smart move in adding less humor but making what humor there was even more forceful. It was definitely a great way to end the series.


Monday, January 24, 2011

A newspaper clip and an open letter

Giant Spider Rampages Through Florham Park

Mere hours after the New York Jets' tragic defeat in the playoff game, a giant spider came tearing through Florham Park, headquarters for the Jets football team.

So far, the body count is unknown, but the damage will certainly cost millions.

Head coach Rex Ryan was found cowering under a desk in the middle of the wreckage, muttering over and over, "She really did it! She really did it!"

Fans of Mystery Science Theater and the Green Bay Packers alike were seen bursting from their homes, screaming, "Packers won the Super Bowl!"

They were told by authorities to wait until February 6th.

An Open Letter to the Green Bay Packers

Dear Packers,

I hate you.

This is a long established fact. We carry within our hearts a mutual dislike of one another. Your victory yesterday shattered my illusions of a Bears Super Bowl.

But my dislike of you can never equal the deep-set rage that burns within my soul against the Pittsburgh Steelers. It is outstripped only by that long-abiding, unquenchable fury I feel towards the Washington Redskins.

So you see, we have come to an impasse. Our only chance is an alliance. One of those, "I loosen your chains, you kill the guards for the maniac emperor who talks to severed heads on a regular basis" sort of deals. Do the Steelers talk to severed heads? I don't know.

However, I do know what will happen if you blow this for us.

Remember Florham Park.



Sunday, January 23, 2011

An Open Letter to the New York Jets

Dear Jets,

Well, we've had our good times, we've had our bad times. My team was apparently having tea while the Green Bay Packers snuck off to the Superbowl. Your conditioning coach thought it was acceptable to trip someone and pretend like he was totally just bringing his knee up, probably dancing to the song "She's a Maniac", or perhaps he confused you guys with the wrong Jets and was trying to intimidate the rivals through a song-and-dance routine.

But come. Let us move on from the bad times, and hope for the future.

Because I swear, if you lose and subject the world to a Packers/Steelers Superbowl, I will do this.

That's right. Because no amount of arachnophobia will prevent me from mutating a spider and sending it into Florham Park.

Make your choice.

Love, Erica

Monday, January 17, 2011

Book Review: Dandelion Fire

I'm near the end of my reviews...which means I'm actually going to have to write something to post instead of just reviewing stuff. I could write about how it turns out Jared Loughner, PhD in Nutcasery, is a Truther, but that wouldn't take long at all.

Jared Loughner turns out to be a Truther, meaning he blames George Bush for 9/11, which isn't something a right-wing nutcase does.

There. That was easy. *Hits the imaginary Easy button*
On to the review!

Dandelion Fire by Nathan Wilson

Henry is about to be sent back to his adoptive parents, who have been released from captivity. Not wishing to return to his suffocating former life, he decides to go through the cupboards to find out about his past and his real parents. He soon finds himself crossing paths with a powerful wizard in thrall to the dark realm of Endor and angry, though rather comical, faeren. Henrietta, meanwhile, determined to follow Henry, finds herself in troubles of her own (once again those crazy faeren).

The book was a bit more faster-paced than the last, but that was necessary; Henry isn't just discovering, he's taking part in the action now. We see his slow growth into his own in this book, and learn a bit more of his and others' history, including Uncle Frank's. A nice second book to this series. The ending was really enjoyable; almost dream-like in its peace.


*hits the imaginary Easy button again*

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Book Review: 100 Cupboards

100 Cupboards by Nathan Wilson

Henry York is an ordinary boy who has been overly sheltered by his parents. When they are kidnapped while biking in South America, he is sent to stay with his Uncle Frank and Aunt Dotty in Kansas (Dotty is a nickname for Dorothy...GEDDITGEDDIT?). That's when everything starts turning weird. He wakes up one night to find plaster falling on his bed, and discovers that cupboards have pushed their way out of the wall. Lots of cupboards. Each leads to another world, and it seems there must be one in his grandfather's old bedroom, constantly locked; he sees a short man leave the room to use the bathroom at one point. He and his cousin Henrietta start investigating the cupboards, ignoring the dire warnings that they could awaken an ancient evil.

Nathan Wilson writes these books with a matter-of-fact realism that just seems to work in fantasies like these. He follows Henry's train of thought very well and very realistically, while showing that he is much more than he seems to be. It is telling, too, that Henry's doubts about himself first start being conquered, not by grand adventures in other worlds, but simply by playing baseball for the first time and finding out he's really not that horrible. Little victories lead to bigger ones.

I think the matter-of-fact tone is what makes this stand out. Even when the characters not acquainted with the oddness sees it, they just set to work to do what they must (i.e. Zeke). Henry is easy to relate to, as is Henrietta. The book went fast but it wasn't constant action; the flow was just right.

4.5/5 (.5 for Henrietta being a heroine with curly hair)

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Book Review: Cemetery Dance

Missed a post yesterday, I believe. We had a movie night, watched Knight and Day. It was pretty good, it kept a steady pace without feeling exhausting. The acting was decent, but it was definitely a popcorn movie. The action scenes, of course, defied logic, and was a bit exaggerated for humor. This was its shining point: it managed to be a gentle parody of spy movies disguised as a fluffy romance. The humor was not in your face; but it was there, and some parts were still laugh-out-loud funny. The heroine's sudden revolution into complete competency was a bit...sudden. But as I said, it was not meant to be a serious character study. It was meant for laughs.

Anyways, on to what I intended to post: the review of the latest Pendergast book I've read. (I haven't finished Fever Dream)

Cemetery Dance by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

The beginning. THE BEGINNING. The cover blurb pretty much gives it away (although Dale was surprised it happened so early in the book) but I'll let you see it for yourself.

So Smithback and Nora Kelly are celebrating their one year anniversary when A ZOMBIE HAPPENS. Seriously. In the wee morning hours when D'Agosta is investigating the murder scene, Pendergast APPEARS OUT OF FREAKING NOWHERE to inform him that the perp, caught on tape and seen by several eyewitnesses, including Nora herself (hospitalized), has been dead for well over a week.

Oh, God.

D'Agosta heads off an official investigation, while helping Pendergast on the side;  Nora, hell bent on revenge, and Pendergast have a less...traditional investigation. Apparently there is an Obeah cult nearby that Smithback was investigating, and guess who our main suspects are? Pendergast decides to employ some vodou "just in case" (one wonders just what the guy saw out on the bayous that makes him take it somewhat seriously. Or maybe he noticed the authors didn't employ a scientific explanation in the last book and got worried.).

Meanwhile, animal rights activists wander about, shouting things and being general nuisances (one calls keeping animals as pets "oppression", leading me to believe Oreo must enjoy oppression a great deal, judging by the way she enjoys sleeping on my coat).

A weird one, this. Riveting, heart wrenching at times, and the villain was just STRANGE.

However, Laura Hayward is starting to sound less like tough female police captain and more like whiny drama queen. Despite having taken a firm stand beside D'Agosta in The Book of the Dead suddenly she's back to "I'm not sure cuz you messed up trying to help Pendergast". In this book it seems her main role is to whine that D'Agosta is going to get in trouble helping Pendergast again. She's starting to become the over-emotional, moody female instead of the competent woman she had been before. It feels almost like the authors are trying to inject some relationship drama into the work and it just seems jarring.


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Book Review: The Wheel of Darkness by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

We start off in...Tibet. What? Yes, Tibet, where Pendergast and his ward, Constance Greene, are taking a much-needed vacation in an old Buddhist monastery after that whole Diogenes problem has been solved (we hope). However, they soon have a case to solve and have no time to strive for enlightenment. An ancient treasure called the Agozyen has been stolen from the monastery, and Pendergast soon tracks it down to a ship about to embark on its maiden voyage. It's being hailed as greater than the Titanic, which should send everyone running and screaming like little girls, but nothing of the sort happens. The worst is that Pendergast actually manages to get the ship to stop, reverse, and let them on. That's people skills there.

Once on board, they meet a cast of characters, several who could be suspects, and Pendergast ingratiates himself with the ship security by dealing with some gamblers in the casino who have been counting cards (like those nerd kids in Vegas) and Constance investigates the service area belowdecks. Meanwhile, deaths are starting to pile up, and a storm is on its way. Serial killing in a storm! Great way to spend a vacation.

And there's that problem of the smoke ghost floating around scaring everyone...

A great book, although an odder one, and luckily free of the usual drama. A great twist as well. Once again, the authors kept me riveted.

4.5/5, .5 because, whoa! They didn't have a scientific explanation for something for once!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Book Review: Book of the Dead

We start out with Our Hero falsely imprisoned, with the incompetent FBI agent Coffey doing a happy dance all the while and turning the Colonel Klink of the prison against him with all manner of nonsenses. D'Agosta and Constance team up with a brilliant guy, Eli Glinn, whose actual job is indeterminate, other than solving things with engineering skills. Things? Whatever things there are. Including psychological profiles of deranged killers named Diogenes. Thing is, he can't figure out what drove Diogenes nuts and made him hate his brother. And Pendergast, who can't remember anything that would have happened, is locked up. So, Eli's solution is simple: bust Pendergast out of the prison that no one has ever escaped from, ever. But Eli is an engineer and you know how those engineers are.

Meanwhile, D'Agosta is trying to stay out of trouble with both his boss and Hayward, who is not pleased with D'Agosta's involvement in Pendergasts' troubles. Meanwhile, the museum is in trouble after the debacle from the last book and needs some good publicity. Hugo Menzies has a great idea! After you have read Dance of Death, you will find that, really, Hugo Menzies having any ideas whatsoever is a Bad Thing. Nora is chosen to curate a new show. See, this rich Italian count is descended from someone who had bought an entire Egyptian tomb, which was sold to and exhibited in the museum for a short time before being boarded up (thanks to-you guessed it!-a curse). It is planned to reopen the tomb with an additional sound and light show.

Once again a riveting book, and with less clutter of unnecessary plotlines. The end, I promise, will knock you off your feet, into the Grand Canyon, down the river, and all the way to the Pacific Ocean, where you will wash up on Hawaii, looking dazed and saying "Whoa. That was, like, WHOA."


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Book Review: Dance of Death by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

Now that I've gotten my political mindvomit out of the way, I can go back to trying to update these massive amounts of book reviews that I've collected over the past few months.

Dance of Death by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

This one starts out with a bang that knocks us off that Grand Canyon cliff we were dangling over (more on dangling later). A professor down in New Orleans (New Orleans? That can't be a coincidence!) suddenly goes off the deep end in class, and D'Agosta is summoned to Riverside Drive, Pendergast's New York mansion, by Constance Greene. Because Pendergast has not yet returned from Italy (and is presumed dead), Constance believes it is up to D'Agosta to stop Diogenes' evil plan, which is supposed to take place in one week. (Way to procrastinate Constance!) D'Agosta must learn all he can of Diogenes, because people close to Pendergast are slowly being killed off.

Several subplots weave in and out of the main thread. First there is the Dangler, of no importance except comedy (the NYPD have good reason for calling him that); there is D'Agosta's growing relationship with Laura Hayward (okay, okay, they're already shacking up) which will cause much drama later on; and there is a new exhibition at the museum, with Nora Kelly and Margo Green in the mix. This has much more to do with the main plot than first appears. One can only hope no horrific monsters decide to burst in upon the festivities this time...

Definitely another good addition to the series, and once again the narrative is tight and the characters spot on. I did think the brief feud between Nora and Margo was unnecessary; it took away from the plot rather than added to it. I felt like the authors didn't want to go with the cliché (oh the two females are BFF's immediately!) but having them take instant dislike to each other is just as cliché. Of course one can see Diogenes' plan a mile away, and the police objection to the obvious as well as rejection of an eyewitness account (D'Agosta's) was a bit unbelievable; aren't they supposed to keep every option open? But then we wouldn't have a story.


Sunday, January 9, 2011

Book Review: Brimstone by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

This is yet another book of the Pendergast series by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, and marks the beginning of the "Diogenes Trilogy".

The book opens up with some poor Latina housekeeper getting scared out of her wits by finding her employer dead in a locked room, under...odd circumstances.

Enter D'Agosta, stage right, fresh from Canada but stuck as a police sergeant in the Hampton PD, an embarrassing demotion from lieutenant of NYPD. No sooner does he appear than does Pendergast, which of course means everything is about to go to hell in a hand basket.

And that could just be literally.

See, more deaths follow on the heels of this one, and they all bear the same mark: all appeared to have been burned from the inside out, in locked rooms, and all so far seem to have been involved in some sort of pact with the devil. So is it mere spontaneous combustion...or has the Prince of Darkness come to claim his own? On the trail, Pendergast and D'Agosta head to Florence, Italy, leaving behind Pendergast's ward, Constance Greene. And if that name pops out at you, there is a very good reason for that.

Once in Italy their trail starts leading them toward a priceless violin, while poor Laura Hayward is stuck in New York dealing with a crazy street preacher. (What happened to any of the sane street preachers?)

To top it all off, Pendergast receives a note from his long-lost brother Diogenes, who is insane and happens to be planning some horrific crime.

This novel was strange, but good fun, leading us amongst many strange and amusing characters, including Count Fosco, a shining tribute to Wilkie Collins' character from The Woman in White. The villain was suitably clever, and the denouement kept me on the edge of my seat. The narrative felt a bit tighter in this one, and left us with a cliff hanger so big that we might as well be dangling over the Grand Canyon.


Thursday, January 6, 2011

Book Review: North by Northanger by Carrie Bebris

I had planned on combining my two reviews, but the Amazon links using images kept messing up the format on the page. It was very annoying. So, we'll do this one at a time.

North by Northanger by Carrie Bebris

The third in the Mr. and Mrs. Darcy Mystery series. Now...this was a somewhat odd one, and a little different from the last.

We start out with Elizabeth adjusting herself to life at Pemberley, and dealing with the usual things associated with pregnancy. Her biggest challenge at the moment is the hold the former Mrs. Darcy seems to have over the servants; Elizabeth cannot even move a writing desk without getting odd looks. However, in doing so, she discovers a letter Darcy's mother wrote before she died in childbirth, written for the future Mrs. Darcy, telling of a precious treasure hidden that she should find. Elizabeth is intrigued, but Darcy has more concrete concerns: he wants to engage a London doctor to attend Elizabeth when she gives birth. Though reluctant they head to Bath to meet the doctor, who is on vacation there.
Not only does Elizabeth have to deal with Lady Catherine "Don't tell me you're breeding!" "I prefer the term carrying.", but they also receive an odd note from a Captain Tilney, who says his mother was friends with Darcy's mother. They decide to visit him once their time in Bath is over. However, when they get to his home, Northanger Abbey, they find him bandaged, no one but one housekeeper named Dorothy, and very odd questions coming from the strange man. They leave the next day, only for policemen to come to their room at the inn and discover diamonds in a hollow of Darcy's cane. Darcy is put in the gaol, Elizabeth has to summon Lady Catherine to get him out, and they discover Captain Tilney was killed weeks before they had arrived at Northanger Abbey. The questions: who did they meet instead, why did they frame Darcy, and does this have anything to do with Darcy's mother and her treasure? Darcy and Henry Tilney deal with the first two while Elizabeth deals with the latter, and Lady Catherine's unpleasantness.
This was a bit more convoluted, yet at the same time it was easy to figure out at least two of the perps just by the impostor captain's manner of speaking. I also appreciated the brief element of supernatural; not overpowering but perhaps better that way. The doctor (Severn; you can tell what kind of guy that is) was appropriately snobbish and confining to the high-spirited Elizabeth, Lady Catherine was horrific, and Darcy was overly protective, which I thought is probably how he would be. I could have wished for more Henry Tilney, and it would have been nice for Catherine to have a cameo. Still, another fun offering but not quite as light-hearted, I think.

P.S. The formatting seems to be working fine now. I'll use the excuse and blame demons in the Interwebz lines.

Book Review: Suspense and Sensibility by Carrie Bebris

I will stop procrastinating. I will update this blog properly.

I have a good excuse though. I was sick, got over it, got a stomach virus right before Christmas, got over that, had Christmas, and now I'm sick again. But see, here I am, writing a blog post while sick. You should be proud of me. (At least I'm not under the influence of Nyquil yet!)

So, without further ado, on to the review!

Suspense and Sensibility by Carrie Bebris
 This is the second in the Mr. and Mrs. Darcy Mystery series. Another fun offering from the pen of Carrie Bebris, and even odder than the last.

The book starts out with Elizabeth and Darcy chaperoning their respective sisters, Kitty and Georgiana, to London for the Season (i.e. that time of winter when single girls descend upon the city to find a husband). Kitty, though still a bit silly at times, has matured somewhat since being in the company of her wiser sisters. To her high luck she quickly meets and falls in love with a wealthy young man, Harry Dashwood, son of that harpy Fanny Dashwood. Harry is somewhat immature but overall decent, unlike his tactless parents. He and Kitty waste no time in becoming engaged to the horror of his mother and the approval of his sensible aunt (we all know who that is).

However, shortly after the engagement is made official, Harry discovers a painting of an infamous ancestor as well as the man's mirror; and suddenly, he is behaving like his rakish ancestor. Elizabeth and Darcy, concerned both about the young man that seemed so nice and their heartbroken sister, try to get to the bottom of this change of behavior.

This was yet another riveting tale, and the author's ability did not flag. I thought the resolution was a bit unbelievable, with regards to everything being tidied up so neatly, but I'm a sucker for fluffy happy endings. The happy surprise was also well done. There was the supernatural aspect which was enjoyable and quite frankly a little creepy; and of course the author continued with the believer/skeptic dynamic between Elizabeth and Darcy. Once again, good for light reading.


Saturday, January 1, 2011

Because I have nothing better to do...


I tried to find the Regency period drama sketch, but alas.

Still, I want a Regency bazookoid blaster.