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CBR5 #12: Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

I entered into this book with a little hesitation -- sequels are always difficult, particularly when the original story is as iconic as The Shining. However, I was pleasantly surprised. 

Years after the events that took place at the Overlook Hotel, Daniel Torrence's life has gone off the rails. He's a drifting, aimless alcholic, spending his days drinking to try and dull the nightmares of his past. He uses his unique gifts to help ease the passing of hospice patients, earning him the nickname "Doctor Sleep." As it turns out, though, the universe has a plan for Daniel, and despite his efforts to resist, he will once again have to stand and fight an ancient evil. This time, however, he will have allies, some of whom are even more powerful than he is.

While this story doesn't necessarily have the terrifying power of its precursor, it's a good, solid story with likeable, sympathetic characters. Daniel Torrence is a wonderful protagonist, and Abra Stone has a …

CBR5 #11: The Black Cathedral by L. H. Maynard

This started out as a fairly promising "Psychics investigate a troubled house" book, but the beginning was a bit slow, and bogged down by a lot of completely unnecessary personal issues. A lot of time was spent unravelling some of the history between some of the characters, but for all the time taken, I felt like I got very little real feeling of most of the personalities. The photographer is sarcastic, the psychic is naive, the extra psychic is (maybe?) jealous? There is some history between them all that is never fully explained, but just agressively hinted at. 

Eventually, things started to get good, only to take off at the speed of a runaway train. The house being investigated really starts rocking, flapping its plastic and setting off some spooky effects. Even then, there was less information I wanted (once again, the house's history was hinted at, but not detailed the way I would have liked.) The finale felt rushed and unfinished, and a lot of the carefully lai…

CBR5 #10: Zombie by Joyce Carol Oates

(So clearly I am not going to manage a double Cannonball this year. Or a full Cannonball. Or even a half Cannonball. But BY GOD I will at least complete the quarter, so at least I have not totally failed.)

Joyce Carol Oates's tale of Quentin P___ is unpleasant. And I know it's supposed to be that way--after all it's a dip into the mind of a serial killer--but it's more than that. He is the antagonist of his own story, making the reader into the protagonist. You spend your time reading his diary, and begin to get the creepy feeling that this is something you should never have seen. Quentin is not likable. You don't root for him as you do with Dexter or Hannibal Lector or even Patrick Bateman. Quentin is all the violence but none of the charm. I found myself rooting AGAINST him, rather than for him, and spent most of my time completely revolted. I suppose that's an indication that Oates did her job in making this character so real that he overwhelms the re…

CBR5 #9: What Alice Knew by Paula Marantz Cohen

(I received this book through a LibraryThing giveaway, but that will in no way effect my review.)

A murderer has been stalking the streets of London. He's called Jack the Ripper, and he has the city trembling in fear. Enter the James siblings--Henry, the author, William, the lecturer and early psychologist, and Alice, the invalid. When William is called to London from the US to apply his new studies in psychology to the case, the brothers and their sister decide to work together to suss out the Ripper.

This is a pretty good mystery, though I thought the solution came a little bit from left field. However, the characters--particularly Henry--were quite enjoyable, and I liked the way they each had a different view of the society in which they existed. Also, the author used shifting perspective well.

On the whole, I'd definitely read another mystery involving the James siblings!

CBR5 #8: It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini

Craig Gilner is fifteen, and he wants to kill himself.

He feels like he's under pressure from every direction, and no one--not his parents, not his teachers at his pre-professional high school, not his best friend to whom everything comes easily, not the girl he has a crush on--seems to understand. The "tentacles" of responsibility and social obligation are tangling through his life and he gets to the point where he can't even manage to sleep or keep food down. Finally, when it all gets to be too much, Craig checks himself into the psych ward to try and get some help.

I actually saw the movie version of this first, and enjoyed it quite a bit. While the film focuses entirely on Craig's time in the mental hospital, the book adds in a lot of the time leading up to that. It definitely shows just how Craig ended losing it, but it also expands the role of his family and friends. The first half of the book was basically a lead-up to the second half, which is the time h…

CBR5 #7: They Fought Like Demons: Women Soldiers in the Civil War by DeAnne Blanton and Lauren Cook

As you all know, I'm an avid Civil War buff, and am always on the lookout for a new and interesting slant on things. They Fought Like Demons focuses on women who disguised themselves as males to join in on both sides of the conflict. Though primary sources and also reported anecdotal evidence, the authors demonstrate the methods and motivations of women in the Civil War trenches.

This definitely reads more like an academic paper than a book, but that's okay. The authors managed to cram in an amazing amount of facts and research into a fairly small amount of space. A lot of it was fascinating, though there were sometimes SO MANY facts that it got a little hard to follow or in a few spots a bit repetitive. 

The only thing I found a little questionable was the authors' adamant denial that any of these women (even the ones who lived as men both before and after the war) were lesbians. While I see their point, which is that women had so few options at the time that some …

CBR5 #6: Role Models by John Waters

(I've been really out of the blogging game this year. Not sure why, but I just WAS NOT FEELING IT. I've been reading at my usual pace, but the effort needed to get online and write up a blog and then copy it to the other blog and blah blah blah was not making the top of my priority list. So I thought "Well, that's it for book blogging, I guess." Then one day, I discovered that as I was finishing books, I was feeling inspired to add a little review blurb over at Goodreads (where I diligently keep track of all my book activities). Nothing major or in-depth, but just a little something to let people know what I thought. As time went on, I thought "Maybe I could copy these little blurbs on my blog? They're obviously not great criticism, but they're SOMETHING at least." So that's what I'm doing. Take it or leave it, people.)

I find John Waters totally adorable. His gleeful enthusiasm for all things tacky, crude, and macabre makes me think th…

CBR5 #5: Constable for Life: Chronicles of a Canadian Mountie by Chuck Bertrand

This is a charming little book that The Boyfriend picked up for me while on a business trip to Vancouver. He apparently stumbled upon the author doing a signing, and managed to get a signed copy with a nice dedication for me.

Chuck Bertrand's voice is pleasant, and he tells stories from his career in the RCMP that vary from humorous to heartbreaking. I really enjoyed this, and felt that Bertrand seems to be the kind of law enforcement officer that everyone hopes for--dedicated to protecting and serving, but with a healthy of dose of humor and common sense.

Although not to everyone's taste, I found this a quick and sweet read

CBR5 #4: The House Next Door by Anne Rivers Siddons

Aaaaand we're back to horror stories.

Bet you didn't see that coming, huh?

The House Next Door is the tale of Colquitt Kennedy and her husband Walter, a very WASPy, fairly average couple. They live in an upscale neighborhood in the South, the kind of place where everyone knows each other, and most know one another's business, though they're usually too polite to mention it. One day, someone buys the long-empty lot next to the Kennedys and begins to build a new house. As you may have inferred from the title of the book, the house has some issues.

This isn't really a gory tale--there are no madmen with chainsaws or bleeding walls or be-tentacled monstrosities. Saw IV it is not. This is a story of anticipation, anxiety, fear, and destruction. Colquitt figures out pretty quickly that something isn't right, then must struggle for the length of the book to decide what she might be able to do about it, if anything.

I'm a little torn about this book. On one hand, th…

CBR5 #3: Where the Heart Is by Billie Letts

I wanted to like this book. I really did. In my attempts to read things that are not all dripping gore and supernatural monsters, I picked out a nice little selection from Oprah's book club. I figured that the story sounded slightly intriguing, and the reviews seemed pretty good.

By the time I got half-way through, I was praying that a zombie horde would crash through town, eating nearly all the characters and laying waste to the country-side.

Novalee Nation is seventeen years old and seven months pregnant when the novel opens, traveling west with her boyfriend Willy-Jack. They stop at a Wal-Mart in a small town in Oklahoma, and while Novalee is in the bathroom, Willy-Jack drives away. So what does Novalee decide to do? The only thing she can do--move into the Wal-Mart! She meets some quirky, lovable small-town residents who eventually become her friends. The book covers several years of her life, and all the wonderful, valuable lessons she learns about friendship and love and str…

CBR5 #2: The World According to Garp by John Irving

While my obsession with horror books is not over (sorry Mum!) there will be a brief respite from them for a while.

The World According to Garp is the story of T. S. Garp. It begins with the life of his mother Jenny Fields, and the way that she became a feminist icon, and continues to follow Garp's life through the twists and turns of becoming a husband, father, writer, and unwilling icon in his own right. I thought I might like this, since I fell in love with Irving's Hotel New Hampshire, but instead it was a struggle just to finish it. I hated dogmatic matron Jenny Fields. I hated whiny, indecisive, anxiety-ridden Garp. I hated Garp's puling, dissatisfied wife Helen. I hated the Ellen Jamesians (a group of women who cut their own tongues out to represent the struggle of young rape victim Ellen James). I did like Ellen James herself (partly due to her own hatred of the Ellen Jamesians), though my favorite character was Garp's friend Roberta Muldoon, transgendered former…

Why Comparing the Danger of Cars to That of Guns is Stupid

I do not usually post about political things, but today is just one of those days that has pushed me to a point where it's either write a blog about my irritation or start yelling at people on Facebook who are ostensibly my friends. Since I like my friends (despite their occasionally ill-informed opinions) I thought it would be better for me to vent here, to my "tens" of readers.

I grew up in place where guns are fairly common. While my parents don't own any, nor do they have any interest in them, my grandfather is an avid hunter and target shooter, and his wife is also a gun enthusiast. I have been taught the basics of gun safety and have shot some of the smaller weapons. I do not have a problem with people owning guns in general. Rifles for hunting, hand guns for protection or target shooting seem perfectly reasonable to me. I am not one of those people who believes that no one should have guns.

I DO however feel that NO ONE (aside from active duty military personn…

CBR5 #1: Jane Slayre by Sherri Browning Erwin (with Charlotte Bronte)

It's a new year and time for a new Cannonball Read! I didn't manage to finish last year--I got SO CLOSE and then somehow pooped out at the end--but I am getting back on the horse to try and complete all 52 reviews this year. For any of you who might be interested, learn about the CBR here. Although I haven't always been successful, the CBR is a great motivator to keep making blog entries. If my tags are to be believed, I have written reviews for 261 books since I started, which is not too shabby.

Anyway, enough with that and on to the first review!

I must first say that I really like the original Jane Eyre. It's a great story with an original and interesting heroine who was waaaay ahead of her time.

That said, the story is distinctly lacking in vampires.

Sherri Browning Erwin has solved that minor problem in Jane Slayre. Now, instead of just being terrible people, her aunt and cousins are vampires! And the school she goes to isn't just miserable and run by a cold-h…