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Showing posts from February, 2011

CR3 #18: Dying to Live by Kim Paffenroth

Dying to Live is the story of Jonah Caine, a man who is aimlessly wandering the countryside, trying to survive after the zombie apocalypse. He had been at sea when the trouble started, so he'd come on land to try and find his family. Unfortunately, they had disappeared, and were most likely dead. He continued to wander for months, trying to decide what to do, until he came upon a group of fellow survivors holed up in a museum. He joins their group, and begins the process of reintegrating into society. The group has to deal with the struggles of day-to-day living, as well as the fact that not all survivors want to cooperate and help each other.

On the whole, this is not a bad book. The story is interesting, and there is quite a bit of action. However, I felt that the characters were pretty one-dimensional, and the narrator himself was not all that interesting. No one really seems to develop or change. The book is really not long enough to allow much character development. Also, with…

CR3 # 17: Mount Misery by Samuel Shem

Mount Misery is the sequel to Samuel Shem's first book, House of God (review here). It follows Dr. Roy Basch as he leaves the House of God and moves to psychiatric hospital Mount Misery to begin his psychiatric residency. Unfortunately, it turns out that psychiatrists are just as crazy, confused, and often detrimental as medical doctors. As Dr. Basch cycles through the various sectors of the hospital (talk therapy, admissions, Freudian Analysis, drug therapy) he is horrified to discover that it seems everything he is being taught is not only wrong, but potentially dangerous. He begins to fall into terrible patterns of behavior, mirroring the problems his patients are having. Each area is worse than the last, with one doctor who thinks the best way to treat is to be aggressively hostile, one who cares only about insurance premiums and efficiency, one who treats with silence and "regression," and one who thinks the only viable treatment is to pump every patient full of exp…

CR3 #16: The Pale Horse by Agatha Christie

I have found that Agatha Christie's body of work feels very uneven to me. Some of her novels are blow-your-mind fantastic, filled with interesting characters and unexpectedly twisty plots. However, some of them are bland, flat, and slightly smug. It's hard to tell what you're getting really. I avoid the Poirot mysteries all together, and find that I have much better luck with her non-series works.

The Pale Horse tells the tale of Mark Easterbrook, a young writer who finds himself embroiled in the mystery of the Pale Horse Inn. One night, on his way home from hearing a dying woman's confession, a priest is murdered. Found on his body is a list of names. But who are these people? What do they have in common. Through chance encounters in a coffee shop and on a country weekend, Easterbrook begins to look into the case, trying to figure out what is going on, and what it has to do with three very spooky self-avowed "witches" living at the Pale Horse Inn.

This is def…

CR3 #15: The Zombies of Lake Woebegotten by Harrison Geillor

This story of a small Minnesota town's reaction to the zombie onslaught is nothing genre-changing. It is not going to blow your mind or change the way you look at zombie literature forever. However, it's a fun story, well-written and entertaining.

Lake Woebegotten is a town in rural Minnesota. It is the sort of place that has only two police officers, and where the mayor doubles as the town's used car salesman. Things are going along in fairly normal fashion until one night there is a crazy celestial event which seems to lead to some surprising problems. The issue begins with zombie fish, and soon the whole town is trying to handle the risen dead (human and animal alike) while still continuing to deal with their typical small-town problems (who is sleeping with whom, who is worshipping Norse gods, who is keeping an arsenal in his home, who is a prolific serial killer.) The characters are not exactly deep--most are simply caricatures--but a few of them do manage some develop…

CR3 #14: The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

It has been three days since I finished this book, and I am still not entirely sure whether I liked it or not. The story is of Thursday Next, a "Literary Special Ops" agent who lives in an alternate universe version of 1985 England (a place where the Crimean war continues, reincarnated dodos walk the earth, and Jane Eyre ends with Jane marrying St. John.) After a mission goes disastrously wrong, Thursday heads back to her hometown to recuperate. However, it turns out that her past is not really past (how can it be, when her father is a time-traveller who occasionally stops time for a short chat?) and that dangerous arch-villain Acheron Hades is still a hazard. When her Uncle Mycroft's new invention comes into the mix, it's a race to see who will end up with a potentially world-changing technology.

Does that explanation make any sense? I didn't think so. I was trying to write without spoilers, but the plot is so twisty and convoluted that I just wind up tying myse…

CR3 #13: The Bachman Books by Stephen King

The Bachman Books consists of four novellas that were published by Stephen King under the assumed name "Richard Bachman." Bachman was King's escape hatch--he could write non-supernatural thrillers without "tarnishing" his brand. Three of the four pieces in this collection are stories that I consider some of King's best work.

"Rage": This is actually out of print now, I believe, since one of the Columbine shooters allegedly quoted it as an inspiration and King asked that it not be printed again. It's the story of Charlie Decker, a high school senior who--on a bright spring day--shoots his algebra teacher and takes his class hostage. The story is told from Decker's point of view, as he tries to explain what drove him to this point. However, the truly surprising part is the reaction of his classmates to the situation, and the way that the tables unexpectedly turn on Charlie and on Ted, the BMOC. I like this one because the reactions of Charli…

CR3 #12: The Stone Monkey by Jeffrey Deaver

The Stone Monkey is the fourth in Deaver's Lincoln Rhyme series. In this novel, the quadriplegic detective and his beautiful assistant/girlfriend Amelia Sachs are working with the NYPD, INS, and the State department to try and track down a dangerous Chinese human smuggler. The smuggler, nicknamed "The Ghost" blew up a ship full of undocumented Chinese immigrants, and then began tracking down the survivors and trying to kill them too. Rhyme and Sachs try to figure out what The Ghost plans to do next, and figure out how to capture him. They receive help from a Chinese cop as well as some inter agency cooperation.

The plot moved along pretty well, though I didn't know the chapters from the POV of The Ghost or the terrified immigrants. I would have been perfectly happy to just follow the investigation as it unfolded. I enjoy the characters of Rhyme and Sachs--they are book very different, but both are interesting to read about. Some of the side characters were also every …

CR3 #11: The Vampire's Assistant (Cirque Du Freak #2) by Darren Shan

The second book in Darren Shan's Cirque Du Freak series picks up exactly where the first ended. Young Darren has been taken in by LartonCrepsley to be trained as a vampire's assistant. Darren has difficulty coming to terms with his new existence (half-vampire) and with having to leave everything he's ever known behind. However, Mr. Crepsley decides that they should rejoin the Cirque Du Freak, which is great for Darren. He makes some new friends, including Ezra Von, the snake boy. Unfortunately, danger and mystery are still in the mix for Darren--Mr. Tiny and his carnivorous "Little People" are disquieting at best, and it turns out that having normal human friends can prove more challenging that Darren originally realized. The ending of the book is both surprising and disturbing.

I like this one better than the first--it is less exposition and more action, in my opinion. Sometimes Darren comes close to "Harry Potter in #5 unbearably whiny" levels, but the…