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Cannonball Read 2 #15: Murder is Easy by Agatha Christie

After that godawful Hercule Poirot novel, I had to put down the Christie for a while. I couldn't quite forgive her for that monstrosity. Then Murder is Easy appeared on my Amazon "recommended" list, and I figured I'd give her another go.

Murder is Easy is the story of Luke Fitzwilliam, a British MP retiring from service and returning to England. During his trip home, he is told a story of serial murder disguised as accidental deaths in an idyllic village. He doesn't believe it, but when the elderly lady who told him the tale turns up dead, he can't resist investigating. He travels to the village, only to be met by a puzzling mystery, eccentric villagers, and a beautiful but contrary young woman. He has to interview everyone, trying to decide whom he suspects--is it the humble country doctor? The occult-obsessed shopkeeper? The shady lawyer? The blustery bull-dog enthusiast? Someone else entirely?--and keep himself from becoming the next victim.

The story moved …

Cannonball Read 2 #14: Hearts In Atlantis by Stephen King

Hearts in Atlantis is a collection of five stories, interconnected by characters and events. The first story, "Low Men in Yellow Coats" is the most "King-like" of the group--is is simultaneously nostalgic and creepy, a combination of the wonder of childhood and the darkness that comes with the loss of innocence. King's descriptions are as whimsical and interesting as ever, although the plot would lose something for anyone who hasn't read the "Gunslinger" novels.

The other four stories continue forward from 1960, watching a cast of characters weave in and out of the action, peripheral perhaps in one story, main characters in the next. The events span the course of 40 years, and the structure sometimes reminds me of IT, in that the characters are still being effected by barely-remembered events that happened in their childhoods.

On the whole I enjoyed the book, though it was not exactly what I expected. I would say it most closely resembles Differe…

Cannonball Read 2 #11 - 13: Sookie Stackhouse 2 - 4 by Charlaine Harris

These darned Sookie Stackhouse book are worse than I first thought--they are NOT like pork rinds, they are like CRACK. I gobbled down three of them during the holidays and found myself raving and drooling until I broke down and ordered #5 - 7.

Sookie's life continues to get weirder--she discovers there are many more supernatural creatures besides vampires in the world, including werewolves, shape-shifters, maenads, fairies, and some she can't even identify. She travels around the south meeting the vampire king of Louisiana, a suicidal vampire, a werewolf biker gang, some religious fanatics, a coven of brutal witches, and even another telepath. She finds dead bodies, gets beaten up, dodges killers, has relationship problems, makes new friends, kicks some ass, and gets more entangled with her boyfriend Vampire Bill's sexy boss Eric than she'd like to be.

Each book is a fun, trashy, roller-coaster ride. The character of Sookie is well-defined, and as you continue through th…

Cannonball Read 2 #10: World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks

When I got this book, knowing it was written by Mel Brooks's son Max, I expected it to be funny. I started reading, and by the time I realized it was not going to be funny, I was already hooked.

The story of World War Z is written 10 years after "The Zombie War," and the character of the author (separate from the actual author) is travelling around the world gathering first-hand experiences from the war's survivors. He interviews people from all walks of life--doctors, politicians, artists, soldiers, members of the media, and ordinary citizens--about what happened to them and how they survived having the dead rise up to devour the living. He begins with a doctor who sees what may have been "patient zero" in China, then continues around the world, tracking the rising plague and the reactions of the world leaders, the "Great Panic" which occurred once the problem became to large to ignore, suppress, or cover up, through the first battles of the "…

Cannonball Read 2 #9: In the Wake of Madness: The Murderous Voyage of the Whaleship Sharon by Joan Druett

In the Wake of Madness is another entry into my beloved maritime disasters series, though this one isn't necessarily a disaster so much as it is the tale of cruelty, mutiny, and murder on a New England whaling ship.

In 1841, the whaleship Sharon left Fairhaven Massachusetts under the control of Captain Howes Norris. A year later, he was murdered by three Pacific Islanders (who had joined the crew after unprecedented desertions throughout the trip) while the rest of the crew were out whaling. The third mate launched a heroic rescue to re-take the ship from the Islanders, and although that dramatic experience was widely publicized, little was said a the time regarding the reasons behind the murder. Racism at the time, as well as the traditional code of silence among sailors, made the easiest answer--the Pacific Islanders just went crazy because that's what "those people" do--the accepted answer. The author attempts to explain the murder by researching journals written b…

Cannonball Read 2 #8: Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris

Dead Until Dark is the first of the SookieStackhouse series, better known as the basis for HBO's show True Blood. I started watching the show earlier this year and became absolutely hooked on it. Dead Until Dark introduces the characters and the world (and is the basis for season 1 of the show.)

Sookie is a waitress in the small town of Bon Temps, Louisiana. She is a pretty girl who lives with her grandmother, and is mostly normal except for the fact that she is telepathic. Being able to read the minds of others has made her life especially complicated, keeping her from being able to date or have any real close friends. In Sookie's world, vampires are real, have just come "out of the coffin" and are trying to join mainstream society. Most of them either drink synthetic blood or feed from willing hosts, however many "normal" people are still fearful or distrusting. One day, a vampire named Bill walks into Merlotte's, the bar where Sookie works, and sets i…

Cannonball Read 2 #7: Dark Tide: The Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919 by Stephen Puleo

This book (obviously) tells the story of the giant wave of molasses that swept through Boston's North End in 1919, destroying everything in its path and killing 21 people. Imagine 2.3 million gallons of molasses suddenly being set free in a bustling urban area...the wave was approximately 25 feet high and completely flattened several nearby buildings as well as taking down a section of the elevated train tracks.

Stephen Puleo clearly researched his work extensively--he takes the reader through the building of the tank (substandard materials, lack of supervision), the historical context of the time (labor unions, World War I, Italian immigrants, anarchists, Sacco and Vanzetti), the tank's collapse and the effect on the mid-lower class Italian neighborhood, and finishes with the trial to determine responsibility and damages, which lasted for three years.

There are many interesting facts here (the historical context areas in particular) and it's obvious that Puleo was careful a…

Cannonball Read 2 #6: Under The Dome by Stephen King

Under the Dome tells the story of a small town that one afternoon is suddenly covered by a clear, near impermeable dome. The citizens of Chester's Mill are forced to cope with this situation, which is complicated by drug deals, rape, murder, and political struggle. The main character is Dale Barbara (called Barbie) a former military man who has become a drifter/short-order cook. He has to figure out what to do about the dome while trying to avoid the clutches of a power-hungry local politician.

The scope of this book is pretty large--aside from Barbie there are probably at least another 50 or so distinct characters, including members from both sides of the dome's conflict as well as "extras." It's a lot to keep a handle on, but King does a pretty good job for the most part. I'd say he did a better job with this same task while writing The Stand, but on the whole I wouldn't say it's bad. The main characters are fairly well-drawn, though the villain can…

Cannonball Read 2 #5: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

I was a little daunted by this book at first. The Hitchhiker's Guide is so well known and loved that I was a bit put off--I tend to avoid things that are very popular (that's why it took me 4 years to pick up a Harry Potter book and why it's likely I will NEVER read anything from the Twilight saga...well, the popularity and the fact that they sound fucking stupid...another discussion for another time.) Also, I enjoyed the movie a lot (I think I was one of the few people that did) and thought maybe that would ruin the book for me.

For those who don't know, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is the story of Arthur Dent, an ordinary British man who discovers not only is his house being bull-dozed to make way for an expressway, but the entire EARTH is being destroyed (for an interstellar expressway, of course.) He is, at the very last moment, saved by his friend Ford Prefect, who turns out to be from another planet--sent to Earth to do research for the Guide. Arthur a…

An Open Letter (#6)

Dear Drew Barrymore and Jodie Foster,

Hi! How are you! Both of you ladies have been looking well lately, and your careers seem to be on track. Congrats Drew on your directing debut--I don't intend to see it, but I'm sure it's going to be great.

I'd really like to ask the two of you a small favor--could you please please take Lindsey Lohan under your collective wing and perhaps rescue her from her ever-twirling downward spiral of drugs and terrible leggings? I know it's a lot to ask, but I feel like of anyone in Hollywood, the two of you are uniquely positioned to get La Lohan back on solid footing. After all, you both have experience in dealing with families who are fucked up in a way only found in show business, and Drew could certainly explain why drinking and doing drugs at a young age will only result in poor decisions like showing your boobs to David Letterman. Both of you seem to have come through the hurricane of childhood stardom into relatively stable, produ…

Cannonball Read 2 #4: Wizard and Glass (Dark Tower 4) by Stephen King

Wizard and Glass continues the story of Roland the Gunslinger and his ka-tet as they travel across Mid-World toward the Dark Tower. After their troubles with Blaine the monorail in the previous book, they are stranded in a version of Kansas where nearly everyone has perished from a plague (King fans will recognize this as the world of The Stand, and will recognize Randall Flagg when he arrives to give our brave wanderers a hard time). While the ka-tet walk across the barren landscape, trying to find their way back to the beam, Roland tells them the story of his past--how he came to be a gunslinger, about the woman he loved, and most importantly, about when the world started "moving on."

This book is more of a classic fantasy story, and has more in common with George R.R. Martin than with Carrie. However, it is still full of King's lush descriptions and lively characters. I was somewhat disappointed to have to leave Eddie, Susannah, and Jake's part of the story, but a…

Cannonball Read 2 #3: Life of Pi by Yann Martel

So it only took me a week to fall apart on NaBloPoMo--I guess spending 8 hours a day sitting at a computer during the week makes me rather disinclined to do it during the weekend. Humpf.

Life of Pi is the story of Pi Patel, a young Indian boy whose father owns a zoo in India. His parents decide to emigrate to Canada, and set off on a ship with several animals they are selling to zoos in North America. One night during the crossing, the ship sinks, and Pi is dismayed to find himself stranded on a 26-foot lifeboat with an orangutan, a zebra, a hyena, and a full-sized Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. The story sets up Pi's upbringing in India and his experiences with the various world religions, but the majority of the book concerns his 227 day ordeal on the open sea.

I read this on the recommendation of a friend of ours--this is The Bartender's favorite book, and after he'd be raving about it for weeks, the opportunity came up for me to borrow a copy. First of all, the story…

This American Life

Okay, I do not listen to NPR. I know I should--I know that it's probably full of really important things that would boost my hipster cred, solidify my proud liberal stance, and make me a significantly better person--but I just can't seem to do it. I have tried, I swear, but...I get so bored. When I listen to the radio, I don't really want to be edified. I want to dance around my kitchen and sing "Don't stop believin'!" at the top of my lungs or do a really embarrassing dance to Britney Spears. I am part of the generation about whom Kurt Cobain sang, "Here we are now--entertain us!" I don't know, I guess I feel the same way about NPR as I do about dark chocolate: there are lots of reasons I should like it, on paper it's perfect, lots of people I admire and respect like it...I just happen to hate it.

However, I thought maybe my problem was that I don't like listening to things. I can't listen to books on tape for the same reason: I …

Cannonball Read 2 #2: The Wastelands (Dark Tower 3) by Stephen King

The third book in Stephen King's Dark Tower saga continues the story of Roland the Gunslinger, Eddie, and Susannah as they work their way through Mid-World, trying to reach the Dark Tower. In this story, they add two more members to their ka-tet (group drawn together by fate). One is Jake Chambers--the young boy that Roland came across and then was forced to sacrifice in book one. They manage to pull Jake through the door again and into Mid-World alive. Also, they are joined by Oy, a "bumbler" (sort of a combination of a puppy, a woodchuck, and a raccoon) who becomes Jake's pet. The group sets off again in the path of the beam. Along the way, they run across a very nasty mechanical bear, come in contact with some of the very unpleasant remains of society, and spend some very very stressful hours on a monorail that has gone insane.

This is much better than the first two books because the finally starts humming along. It seems that the group is together for better or f…

Things I Love on TV

Warning: I watch a lot of TV. Probably significantly more than is healthy. Here are three things that I currently enjoy watching in no particular order.

1. PTI (Pardon The Interruption): This is a sports show that is on ESPN five days a week. The hosts, Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon (sports columnists) discuss the sports topics of the day in a timed format. They usually have headlines, a 5-minute interview with a guest, and some "games" (for example "Role Play" where they ask either other questions, and have to answer in the persona of a sports star or celebrity) or viewer mail. Both men are quite knowledgeable and also humorous. It's a great way to catch up on the important sports stories of the day while still being entertained. This is also one of the few shows that The Boyfriend and I both enjoy.

2. America's Next Top Model: Starbucks Queen and I are both obsessed with this terrible reality show brought to us by the largest ego on the planet, Tyra …

Cannonball Read 2 #1: Diary by Chuck Palahniuk

Diary is the tale of Misty Wilmot, a middle-aged woman living on a Nantucket-esque island called Waytansea with her pre-teen daughter and strange mother-in-law. Her husband Peter attempted suicide, and lies in a vegetative state. Diary is Misty's way of communicating with Peter, explaining what has happened since he became comatose in case he ever wakes up. As the story goes on, Misty makes several unpleasant discoveries; she finds that before his coma, Peter had developed a very disturbing habit of making rooms in houses he was remodeling disappear, her mother-in-law has some plans for her she may not be able to resist, and the history of Waytansea Island and its native inhabitants is considerably more upsetting than poor Misty would have guessed.

I love Chuck Palahniuk's work, though I understand it's not for everyone. His short, choppy, repetitive style strikes a chord with me--there's something very visceral about it. I like his odd little gimmicks--in Fight Club it…

Movies Movies Movies!

It was kind of a big movie weekend, because after the party Friday night, I was sort of blah for the whole weekend. I watched a couple movies, and figured I'd talk about them here for my post of the day.

KungFu Panda: I'm a sucker for movies like this, but the darn thing really WAS hilarious. The Boyfriend and I laughed until the tears ran down our faces, then laughed more. The animation was amazing, and Jack Black was really perfect for the role of hapless panda Po. Sometimes Black can overshadow the character he's playing, but here he was just awesome. I was also happy to spot the ever-delicioso Ian McShane as the voice of the villain. (I kind of wish I could get Ian McShane's voice as hold music--I am on hold a lot, and I'd happily sit patiently if I could listen to him talk about whatever. He could read the phonebook and I'd be delighted.) The story of a fat panda becoming a mighty warrior worked well, and the humor was good for kids, but adults will have no…

NaBloPoMo and Milk

So it is November 1, first day of both NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month) and the first day of Cannonball Read 2. Unfortunately, I wasn't chosen to participate in the official CR2, but I'm going to do the unofficial version instead. There's a list of the unofficial participants (The Kids Who Stink and Suck at Kickball). I'm also going to try and manage NaBloPoMo, but I can't make any promises.

Friday night, I watched Milk, which I had been meaning to see for quite some time. I'd kind of been putting it off, since it's not really something The Boyfriend or Starbucks Queen would be interested in seeing. However, it was late at night, I was still too drunk from partying to go to bed, and it was on OnDemand. I'm glad I finally got to it.

The story of Harvey Milk and his rise to power in San Francisco in the 70s is an inspiring story. The man was determined to make a difference in his own way to try and help those who at the time didn't have a voice. …

Halloween Interlude

So I am taking a short break from the Cannonball Read--this year's contest is over, the new round starting November 1st. I managed to get 55 books in since last December, which is pretty impressive. The new Cannonball Read goal is 52 books in a year, which I am quite sure I can manage. I've really enjoyed all the reading I've done this year, and I think the blogging has been beneficial as well. In the "things to look forward to for the next round" column, I am pleased that there will be new participants, including a much-appreciated fan of this blog, Doc Spender. I'm always interested to know what others are reading.

Right now, I am focused on the search for a Halloween costume. The Boyfriend and I have been invited to a party by one of our friends, and I am desperately trying to figure out what to be. It's a lot harder than it used to be, to say the least. Back in the day (when I was thinner and single) all I had to do was stick the adjective "sexy&q…

Cannonball Read #55: The Sinking of the Lancastria: The Twentieth Century's Deadliest Naval Disaster and Churchill's Plot to Make It Disappear

Written by: Jonathan Fenby


In 1940, the British troops were forced to flee from France upon the surrender of the French government. Many of the fighting troops had already been famously evacuated at Dunkirk, however there were thousands still left throughout France--communications officers, mechanics, engineers, supply depot managers, and other support troops--who needed to be moved back to England as quickly as possible. The British used whatever ships were available, including commandeered luxury liners like the Lancastria. On June 17th, 1940 thousands of soldiers, sailors, medical personnel, and civilians aboard the Lancastria were killed when the German airforce attacked and sank the ship. Although the official death toll was listed as approximately 3500, unofficial totals put the number killed at up to 6000, making the sinking of the Lancastria one of the worst naval disasters in history. However, it is virtually unknown because at the time, Winston Churchill decided not to releas…

Cannonball Read #54: The Wreck of the William Brown: A True Tale of Overcrowded Lifeboats and Murder at Sea by Tom Koch

In 1841, the packet ship William Brown, carrying a load of immigrants to the new world, hit an iceberg and sank--mere miles from where the Titanic would sink 71 years later--drowning hundreds and leaving the rest in a death-struggle on the lifeboats. The shocking part is that not a single member of the William Brown's crew perished, and in fact they tossed 14 passengers out of the lifeboats to their deaths for fear of "overcrowding," only to be rescued a day later. The book details both the history of the packet trade, the circumstances that led to the wreck, the wreck itself, and more interestingly, the scramble afterwards by the British and American governments to find a scapegoat to blame who would keep focus off the mutually profitable Irish emigration trade.

The machinations of both governments are nearly as appalling as the actions of the crew members who, in darkness, heaved defenseless passengers out of the lifeboats into the freezing waters of the Atlantic. It…

Cannonball Read #53: A Furnace Afloat: The Wreck of the Hornet and the Harrowing 4,300-mile Voyage of Its Survivors by Joe Jackson.

Three shipwrecks for the price of one today! (I have some free time and am trying to catch up again on my blogging.)

A Furnace Afloat is the story of the clipper ship Hornet, which caught fire at sea, leaving its crew and several upper-class passengers adrift at sea in an open lifeboat for 43 days. The tensions between the crew and the passengers that nearly led to mutiny, the desperate fight for survival which included eating shoe leather and contemplating cannibalism, and their miraculous arrival in Hawaii to the delight of then-unknown journalist Samuel Clemens (later known the world over as Mark Twain) are all covered in the book. Jackson does an excellent job with research, aided by the fact that the captain, two passengers, and one member of the crew kept extensive diaries through the experience, and nearly all gave interviews to Twain, who documented the events in a career-making piece of journalism. Jackson also makes a point to explain the historical context of the ship'…

Cannonball Read #52: The Drawing of the Three (Dark Tower 2) by Stephen King

This second book in Stephen King's Dark Tower series suffers very seriously from clearly being a book in a series. The book feels very unfinished, which rankled me--much as it did with the Green Mile series, which I had to give up on and wait until the finished product was released as one book.

The plot continues the story of Roland the Gunslinger, fighting through a post-apocalyptic wasteland trying to reach "The Dark Tower". In this part, he slips through doorways into other worlds, where he recruits (willingly or not) three compatriots to share his journey. I really liked Eddie Dean, a heroin addict from 1980s New York City. His character is interesting and entertaining, as well as providing an excellent contrast to Roland. The other two new characters are not as successful, though they definitely add something new to the story.

Stephen King's writing style is--as always--very enjoyable to me, though I know there are people who find him overly verbose. If you don&…

"You wanted a monster? Well, you've got one.": Death Race

Warning: Death Race is NOT a good movie.

If you are looking for quality cinema rife with complex cinematography, a gripping plot, extensive character development, or any sort of "overall message," just pick up your copy of Citizen Kane or something and get the hell out of here.

Then again, if you are looking for a balls-to-the-wall, totally nonsensical, loud, flashy, explody, poorly scripted way to entertain yourself on a long, dull, afternoon while stuffing yourself with cheezy poofs...you may want to check this out.

Jason Statham plays Jensen Ames, a former race car driver who finds himself at Terminal Island penitentiary. In the film, Terminal Island is famous for the "Death Race," a web-broadcast competition where prisoners compete in a vehicular battle to the death in order to win the chance for freedom. Jensen has to navigate life in the prison, preparing for the race with his new friends (including Coach, his mentor, played by Ian McShane) while avoiding both h…

Cannonball Read #49 - 51: The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien

I am not typically a big fan of fantasy books. I mean, I enjoy them when they happen across my path, but I don't tend to seek them out. This particular set of books I bought on a whim--the three books were being sold in a box set used for about $3. I figured I might as well read them--I greatly enjoyed two of the three movies, and these are my father's favorite books as well. It turned out I was surprised how much I enjoyed these.

The first book, Fellowship of the Ring, starts out very slowly. I was disheartened at first, not sure that I'd be able to slog through the whole thing if it all was as dull as the first few chapters. Luckily, once we got past all the descriptions of Hobbit social structure and Hobbit landscapes, the story began to pick up. Admittedly, nothing of real note actually HAPPENED until nearly 3/4 of the way through, but once the Hobbits got on the road and truly began their adventure, I got sucked in. By the time the Fellowship forms and sets out from th…

Tidbits

It may be a while until I get my next Cannonball Read done, since I have tasked myself with reading Lord of the Rings. I am more than halfway through Fellowship of the Ring right now, which--after starting off fairly slowly--has become a lot more interesting. (I can see why the Tolkien purists got all pissed off about the movie, though. I love the movies, but they're pretty different.) I figure while you wait I'd collect a few thoughts for your amusement.

1. It took me all of five minutes to realize I was going to hate National Treasure: Book of Secrets, which I subjected myself to on Saturday. I'm pretty sure it shouldn't have taken me that long to hate it, but I like to give things the benefit of the doubt. However, once they screwed up the Lincoln assassination, though, nothing they did was going to be right so it didn't matter. Probably didn't help that the plot was one of the stupidest things I've ever seen committed to film. Did they let Jon Voight wri…

Cannonball Read #48: Fade Away by Harlan Coben

Fade Away is another entry in Harlan Coben's Myron Bolitar mystery series. In this episode, sports agent Myron returns to the world of professional basketball in order to locate a missing superstar. Along the way he meets up with bookies, 60s radicals on the run, a semi-pro groupie, and some very unpleasant underworld characters as he tries to solve the mystery of a disappearance and a murder. He also gets serious with his girlfriend Jessica, comes to terms with the end of his basketball career, and finds out a dark secret from his own past.

The book is all right--it's funny and decently plotted. The characters are still very likable. I found the solution to the mystery surprising but not entirely out of left field. The only problem I had was the pacing: I felt that the story moved along almost TOO quickly. It seemed to me that things happened all of a sudden and there were points where things could have been expanded a little. I was somewhat disappointed that we didn't get…

Cannonball Read #47: Batavia's Graveyard: The True Story of the Mad Heretic Who Led History's Bloodiest Mutiny by Mike Dash

Batavia's Graveyard is another entry into my "maritime disasters" series. It is exactly the kind of book I love--one that is full of heroics, nefarious deeds, and an overabundance of historical context.

The story is that of a wreck and mutiny aboard a Dutch transport ship in 1629. The Batavia, hauling a load of treasure to the Dutch interests in southeast Asia, ran aground on a series of atolls just off of Australia. While the head Dutch merchant and the ship's skipper left in a longboat to try and reach help in Java, the other 200+ survivors were left to fend for themselves on a desolate atoll without food or water--and as they were soon to discover, governed by a mad man.

The book mostly focuses on the escapades of JeronimusCorneliesz, a lower-level merchant who takes the opportunity to use his charming (and psychopathic) nature to dominate and ultimately destroy the majority of the survivors left under his care. With a group of soldiers and sailors who had originall…

Cannonball Read #46: 1 Dead in Attic: After Katrina by Chris Rose

Anyone who has been following this blog at all this year (and thanks to the two of you I know are out there--I definitely appreciate both your readership and your comments) knows that I have been fixated on disasters. Shipwrecks, fires, blizzards, floods--I've been reading about it all...but it's all been historical. In all the reading I'd done until this point, the most recent disaster was probably the Andrea Doria sink, which I believe happened in 1958. I like my disasters in the past, thank you; the older they are, the more comfortable they are to read about. Plus there's all that fascinating and previously unknown historical context to discover. However, I'd come to the decision that maybe these historic disasters were just a bit TOO comfortable. Maybe it was time for me to get uncomfortable. I saw Chris Rose on an episode of Anthony Bourdain'sNo Reservations reading snippets from this book, and it seemed like something I wanted to read.

1 Dead in Attic is a…

"Screws fall out all the time. The world's an imperfect place.": RIP John Hughes

I wish I had something profound to say about the passing of John Hughes. I tried writing something about how The Breakfast Club changed my life--about the character of Brian Johnson made me feel like someone out there actually understood what my life was about at the time: the nerdiness, the loneliness, the clubs, and the unbearable parental pressure to succeed and be the best. But it's hard to come up with something that will make sense to anyone but me. I can maybe explain why I loved it, but there's no way for me to make you FEEL the way I FEEL. I loved that movie. I wore out two VHS copies in the span of about five years--there were periods in my life when I watched that movie nearly every day, sometimes twice on weekends. I loved each and every character (it cemented my love for vulnerable bad boys, which also changed my life, though perhaps not for the better on that count.) I could recite nearly every single line of dialogue along with the film. Even though I was 14 an…

Cannonball Read #45: Odd Hours by Dean Koontz

I really liked the first book in the "Odd Thomas" series. I thought the second one was all right. The third tried my patience a bit...and this fourth one just sucked.

Odd Hours is the continuation of the story of Odd Thomas, a lowly fry cook who sees dead people. This particular story takes place in a pretty coastal town, where a mysterious pregnant woman gets Odd mixed up in a convoluted plot involving a small town sheriff, coyotes that are not coyotes, nuclear weapons (!), the ghost of Frank Sinatra, and a golden retriever. The plot doesn't really make sense at all, and feels almost totally unfinished...I understand the idea is that this is a series, and we are meant to be left anticipating the next book, but you have to tie off at least a FEW plot points. The side characters--usually the most charming part of the Odd Thomas books--are two dimensional at best, or (in the case of the mysterious pregnant woman) infuriatingly annoying. This wouldn't be so bad if Odd hi…

Cannonball Read #44: Lisey's Story by Stephen King

I have to hang my head and admit that I thought Stephen King might be done. I thought that after his accident his books had headed downhill and might not be coming back. I mean, Dreamcatcher was kind of terrible in my opinion. Then I read The Cell and thought that maybe things were improving. Lisey's Story made me sure.

Lisey's Story is the story of Lisa "Little Lisey" Landon, widow of famous author Scott Landon. Two years after Scott's death, Lisey begins trying to organize his papers. As she goes through his things, her past (and Scott's) begin to catch up with her. It turns out that there are dangers approaching from within and without, and Lisey will need help from her crazy older sister...and possibly from her dead husband.

It's kind of hard to elaborate on the plot much more than that, because it's such an odd book. To say much more would give away some of the surprise, and I would hate to spoil it even the slightest bit for anyone who's thin…

Cannonball Read #43: Legends of Winter Hill: Cops, Con Men, and Joe McCain, the Last Real Detective by Jay Atkinson

This book was supposed to part of my July 5K, but I didn't get around to blogging about it on time, unfortunately.

The Winter Hill of the title actually encompasses the area where I now live, so the field trip portion of my 5K ambitions was pretty easy for this one. The church Joe McCain got married and got eulogized in is at the end of my block, maybe 60 yards from my apartment. The funeral home where his wake was held is across the rotary from where I wait for the bus every morning. The tiny Irish bar the author hangs out in with Joe Jr. is a place my friends used to hang out before it closed. The whole book is full of landmarks I recognize from my daily life. It's like being inside the story, although things are obviously significantly different than they were 40-odd years ago when Officer Joe McCain was walking the beat.

The loose framework of the book involves author Jay Atkinson spending a year working at a Boston detective agency founded by detective Joe McCain and run by…

Cannonball Read #39 - 42: Dennis Lehane's Kenzie/Gennaro Mysteries

Considering how much I enjoyed Gone, Baby, Gone (downer though it may be) I decided to go ahead and read the rest of Lehane's series featuring Patrick Kenzie and his partner Angela Gennaro. Starting with A Drink Before the War, and continuing through Darkness, Take My Hand and Sacred which all come before Gone, Baby, Gone and concluding with Prayers for Rain, I greatly enjoyed the entire series, though I found them somewhat mentally and emotionally exhausting.

All of the books center on mysteries that occur in and around Kenzie and Gennaro's home neighborhood of Dorchester, MA. Although I didn't find the neighborhood itself playing as much a part in the other books as it did in Gone, Baby, Gone, it did set the scene nicely for the violence and despair that encompassed the books fairly equally. The mysteries themselves were twisty and interesting, and most of the time I didn't know where Lehane was going until we actually arrived, which is nice for someone who reads as …

Cannonball Read #38: Drop Shot by Harlan Coben

Drop Shot is the second in Harlan Coben's "Myron Bolitar" mysteries. To refresh your memories, my review for the first book in the series is Cannonball Read #32. Coben's wise-cracking sports agent Myron Bolitar is back and trying to solve another case that rocks the sports world.

While at a high level tennis tourney to watch his latest young client climb up the rankings, Myron is shocked when a former tennis prodigy who had recently tried to contact him is murdered in the stadium in front of at least a dozen witnesses who seem to see nothing. Not only does Myron want to solve the case because he feels guilty that he never got in touch with the young woman, but he also worries that this case may hit a little too close to home for his Nike commercial-bound client. Myron (along with his sociopathic colleague/best friend Win) have to navigate through the dark alleys of the pro tennis world, handling psychotic mobsters, slimy trainers, hyperactive ad executives, secretive …

Cannonball Read #37: Something's Alive on the Titanic by Robert Serling

This could have been an awesome book. It could have been creepy and weird and disturbing and downright scary. Unfortunately, Robert Serling decided not to go in that direction. Instead he decided to focus primarily on showing off all of his scientific knowledge about diving gear and less on making his damn horror book...scary. Or interesting.

Something's Alive on the Titanic is a story in two parts--the first is the story of a crew of divers in 1975 (nearly a decade before the real discovery of Titanic by Bob Ballard) who discover evidence that the ship went down with millions of dollars of gold bullion aboard. They decide to locate the ship and remove the gold. Unfortunately, a great deal of unpleasantness occurs (SPOILER ALERT: Giant shark! Giant squid! Giant primitive dinosaur fish! Inexplicable machine malfunctions! Hurricane!) which dooms their expedition. Twenty years later, the American Navy (along with the sole survivor of the 1975 expedition) set out to steal the bullion, …

Cannonball Read #36: The Gunslinger by Stephen King

I had been trying to avoid the Dark Tower series, and had managed to do so for...well, let's put it this way: The Gunslinger, the first book in the series, was published in 1982, nearly three years before I learned to read. Why have I been resisting the work of an author I usually unabashedly love? Surprising though it may be to the few of you that follow this blog, but I really do try to put a cap on my nerdiness. I am perfectly happy to admit that I read most of King's novels, but...a fantasy series? Really? I felt as though getting involved in the Dark Tower books would push me over into the world of Trekkies, fanboys, and people who dress up like wookies.

Fortunately for me, my undeserved prejudice was undone by a bus trip. Last weekend, I went to the North Country with The Boyfriend for his cousin's wedding. The bus takes about 4.5 hours each way, and when I was gathering reading material for the journey I discovered I was fresh out of books I hadn't read. Normall…