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Showing posts from January, 2011

CR3 #10: A Living Nightmare (Cirque du Freak #1) by Darren Shan

I watched roughly half of the film Cirque Du Freak, and thought to myself , "This is vaguely entertaining. I wonder if there is a book?" And as it turned out, there was!

The first book in the series introduces us to main character Darren Shan, an average 15 year old British schoolboy. He lives with his parents and younger sister and is almost totally average. Then one day, he and his best friend Steve (who seems the very definition of a bad influence) get the opportunity to visit the Cirque Du Freak, a very mysterious freak show. After seeing the show, things begin to go awry for Darren. Steve has some dark secrets, and Darren's adventures with a poisonous spider bring things to a head. Pretty soon, he ends up becoming part of the Cirque Du Freak as a vampire's assistant.

This is not a bad book, particularly if you keep in mind that it's a YA novel. It is probably perfect for the 10 - 14ish range, though I will admit I mostly enjoyed it. The author does very well w…

CR3 #9: Stardust by Neil Gaiman

This is the first book I've read by Neil Gaiman, and I must admit that I only tried it because I saw the film and kind of enjoyed it.

Stardust is the story of Tristran Thorn, a young man of mysterious origins who leaves his small, rural town and heads off into the land of Faerie on a quest to find a fallen star for the girl he loves. He finds the star, but it is not at all what he expected. Tristran also discovers that he is not the only one who has come looking for the star, and that others may have more nefarious uses for it.

This is basically a good old fashioned fairy-tale. With the exception of one or two swear words and a short sex scene, this would be a perfect tale for older children. I enjoyed it, and Gaiman definitely has a way with words and has created very relatable characters. The movie definitely filled out the plot quite a bit--frankly, I found the book ending somewhat dull in comparison--but on the whole it's a fun little book.

Things I Like

I do not normally endorse things (besides books and TV, I guess) but I have a couple things/services that I am really happy about at the moment, and I feel like sharing. I am not being paid or receiving any special favors in exchange for this post--in fact, I doubt any of these entities have any idea I am writing this. This is just me telling you stuff I think you should buy because it is awesome. Take it or leave it.

1. Cake Balls: A lovely woman on Etsy who has a store called The Fetching Hound makes a delicious treat she calls Bitty Bites. Everyone in my immediate circle calls them cake balls, and they are THE SHIT. They are basically balls of moist, wonderful cake dipped in either chocolate or some kind of frosting. She makes a bunch of flavors, though my personal favorite is the carrot cake. They are great to send someone for a gift (or great to order and simply stuff your face with -- I am not judging!)

2. Trader Joe's: I have become obsessed with Trader Joe's. I never th…

CR3 #8: The Strain by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan

The Strain is the first book in a trilogy. It begins with a giant jet airplane landing at JFK and then going inexplicably dark. When the authorities finally board it, they discover every single passenger is dead--or so it appears, anyway.

This is a book about vampires, although their vampires more closely resemble the Reapers of Blade II than they do the traditional Bram Stoker style living dead. They're fast, creepy, gross, and dangerously close to taking over New York City.

Up against these bloodsuckers is a small group of concerned citizens. First there is Dr. Ephraim Goodweather, an epidemiologist from the CDC. (Mostly unrelated note: from the moment I read the name, all I could think of was Dr. Stanley Goodspeed from The Rock. Therefore, I read Eph as Nicolas Cage.) He is accompanied by his on-again-off-again girlfriend/colleague Nora Martinez. There is also Abraham Setrakian, a Holocaust survivor and the group's Van Helsing, a man who has been preparing for this "incu…

CR3 #7: Poppy Done to Death by Charlaine Harris

Poppy Done to Death is the eighth (and probably last) book in CharlaineHarris's Aurora Teagarden series. Aurora is a librarian in a small Southern town where everyone knows one another and where paths always seem to cross. She is very petite and considered a bit eccentric by the locals, and often given a wide berth due to her habit of being in the middle of murder mysteries.

She is recovering from the death of her husband Martin, and is beginning a relationship with an old friend. Things seem to be going well and then--as always seems to happen to Roe--tragedy strikes. Her sister-in-law Poppy (her mother's husband's son's wife) is brutally murdered, and Roe takes it upon herself to help investigate the crime. Poppy was somewhat wild, which makes the investigation more difficult, since it left her with more than the average number of enemies. To complicate things, Roe's younger half-brother arrives unexpectedly to thrown a cog into the whole process.

On the whole, it&…

CR3 #6: Chicago Death Trap: The Iroquois Theatre Fire of 1903 by Nat Brandt

It seems that life in America during the late 19th and early 20th centuries was fraught with danger. At any moment truly horrible things could happen to you--you could drown in a flood,perish in a fire-tornado, be overcome by a torrent of molasses, freeze to death on the prairie*, or die of any number of diseases, including the flu*. God forbid you try and travel anywhere, by any method*--then again, you could also be blown to smithereens while in your own home. Life at that time was perilous at best, even for those who lived lives of relative quiet. It's amazing the country managed to grow and thrive when it seems at every turn there was a disaster like the Triangle Shirtwaist fire*, the horrible destruction of the General Slocum* fire and the sinking of the Eastland* (both of which killed hundreds of women and children), or winter storms that froze school children* to death on their buses. The Iroquois Theatre fire--though the worst lost of life on American soil due to accident …

CR3 #5: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson

This is the third in Larsson'sThe Girl Who trilogy, and I am going to be honest...I was a little disappointed. There was a lot going on, and a lot to like, but when I finished I was kind of let down.

The plot picks up where The Girl Who Played With Fire ended -- Lisbeth Salander fighting for her life in the hospital after being shot by her father, the dangerous Soviet spy who'd been in hiding in Sweden. The plot continues as Mikael Blomkvist and his allies join together to help Salander prove her innocence in several murders and assaults, as well as bring down the nefarious secret society within the Swedish version of the CIA.

Although I was still really into the characters of Salander and Blomkvist, there were just way too many peripheral characters. I know Larsson was trying to show the story from every angle, but it was just overload. I don't care about Blomkvist's lover Erika Berger's travails at her new job with a deranged stalker. I don't care about the int…

CR3 #4: The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson

It took me a VERY long time to get into The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Those first fifty or so pages describing the Swedish banking system very nearly lost me. However, I figured that since nearly every other person I saw on the train was reading the damn thing, it MUST get better. I was happy I persevered, since once the mystery got rolling, I couldn't put it down.

The Girl Who Played With Fire picks up about a year after the end of Dragon Tattoo. We start out immediately with Lisbeth Salander, who is involved in a near-murder and a hurricane right off the bat. I was psyched, because I though perhaps Larsson had managed to fix his pacing problems in this book. Unfortunately, immediately after that excitement, progress slowed to a crawl again. I didn't have as much difficulty sticking it out this time, since I knew that it would get better, but there was still some very dull spots.

The plot revolves around sex-trafficking, some brutal murders, and secrets from both Lisbeth and…

CR3 #3: Auschwitz: A New History by Laurence Rees

I've been interested in the literature of the Holocaust since I was young. I read everything I could get my hands on about it, trying to understand how such a massive travesty could occur, and how the people involved could possibly rationalize it to themselves, how anyone could have the ability to move on from such a horrific experience. It's been about fifteen years since I read my first book on the subject, and I am probably no closer to understanding than I was then.

Laurence Rees's book, Auschwitz, is focused on that particular camp. He begins by discussing the Nazis' original plans for the "Final Solution" (based on his research, Rees believes their original plan was much different than the one most of us were taught). He continues to explain how Auschwitz was planned, built, and operated, first as a concentration/work camp. He then shows how--due to changes in circumstances both political and logistical--Auschwitz was transformed into the notorious deat…

CR3 #2: The Keepsake by Tess Gerritsen

The Keepsake is the seventh of Tess Gerritsen's books in the "Rizzoli and Isles" series. I originally started reading these because I watched the show on TNT this summer and enjoyed it. For anyone else who might have the same thought, I'd like to point out the show is LOOSELY based on the books, and by loosely I mean "just barely".

Jane Rizzoli is still the tough-as-nails Boston detective, and Maura Isles is still the medical examiner. However, from there the characters in the books and those in the show differ almost entirely. Rizzoli is tough, but finds herself unattractive and feels she has to fight twice as hard for everything she gains. However, her husband and new baby daughter are mellowing her out a little bit. Dr. Isles is beautiful but lonely, taking refuge in her work and in a dangerous forbidden romance.

The plot in the book revolves around mummy found in the basement of a museum which turns out not to be what it seems. Rizzoli and Isles have to…

CRIII #1: House of God by Samuel Shem

Yay! It is once again time for Cannonball Read! And this year I am officially in! If you're interested in the specifics, check out the link here. Basically, the goal is to read and blog about 52 books in one year. For every one of the registered participants who completes the task, a donation is made to a scholarship fund which benefits the son of beloved Pajiba commenter AlabamaPink, who passed away last year. I managed to complete CRII with just over a month to spare, so I do not fear this challenge! Onward!

This year's first book is House of God by Samuel Shem. House of God is the well-known Jewish hospital in a large New England city (hint hint) where recent medical school graduate Roy Basch finds himself for his first year of medical internship. Over the course of the year, Basch rotates through the hospital, dealing with the gomers (Get Out of My Emergency Room!) who never get well and yet are too old and sick to die, the young people (who DO die), the patient families, …