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Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion

warmbodiesFull disclosure: I’m not one for zombie novels. Or zombie anything, really. And it’s not for lack of trying. I’ve seen The Walking Dead, Shaun of the Dead, Zombieland, 28 Days Later and I Am Legend and I’ve read World War ZPride & Prejudice & Zombies and various other zombie stories. Aside from a couple of chuckles and a healthy sprinkle of nightmares, I got nothing. But I think I may have pinpointed the issue. Zombie novels have no real thought behind them. Wait! Before you gnaw my head open for some juicy braiiinns, let me finish. The human characters in zombie books and movies have deep thoughts about their situation and the purpose of their horrific existence. But this is all in-between fighting thoughtless murderers (in the literal sense). I mean, in the canon of zombie literature, zombies are usually without a philosophy or desires other than to feed. And I can understand the logic behind that but it doesn’t mean I have to like it. That’s why when my seeester handed me this book and said that it was “not has good as The Hunger Games but better than Twilight,” I was not expecting much.

Plot. “R” is a zombie living in a zombie colony in an airport. And yes, he does what zombies do: hunt people and eat brains. But he also desperately wants to know his name. All he can remember is the first letter. And he wants to know his zombie friend’s name. And his zombie wife’s name, which is printed on a name tag pinned to her shirt which he can’t read because he lost that ability when he turned. He also wants to converse with his fellow zombies about their lot in life, about when they turned, about whether they still dream when they sleep, about their theories on how they came to be (plague? bombs? evolution?), hell, even about the weather. But he can’t. Stringing two coherent syllables together is his personal best and he’s the most articulate of the group. What “R” craves more than anything else is humanity. He wants nothing more than to experience and share and talk again. Which is why he loves eating brains. When he bites into a person’s brain, he becomes privy to their thoughts, fears and memories – things that he lost God knows how long ago.

And this is where “R” is when he goes hunting with his friend and comes across a group of teens/adults to NOM. “R” tackles some guy and busies himself with his brain when he sees a girl out of the corner of his eye. And since he just ate her boyfriend’s brain (with all the memories and feelings he felt for this girl), he feels inexplicably attracted to her. While the rest of his zombie gang busies themselves with devouring everyone, “R” rushes over to the girl, smears her with blood to camouflage her human scent, and takes her back to the airport. He keeps telling her, through stilted words, that he’s doing this to protect her. But it’s more because she awakens things in him that have long laid dormant. Also, she knows her name and can say it: Julie. Big advantage over the wifey there.

But “R” could not have chosen a worse person to kidnap. Julie’s father kind of runs the army for the human resistance living in the arena nearby. Also, everyone can kind of tell that she’s human. And the Boneys (the members of the zombie oligarchy at the airport) want her dead because she’s not one of them. And she represents a threat to their way of life. Self-actualized zombies with a clear philosophy on non-life?! If that’s not scary, I don’t know what is. Also, they look like this:

warm-bodies-skeletons-bonies

Eeep.

This is the tension in the novel: the human philosophy versus the philosophy of the undead. Which one will win? Who will defeat whom? Can they co-exist? Are they all that different? Can Julie and “R” hope for any sort of real life together given who/what they are? Also, “R” kind of ate Julie’s boyfriend. You don’t just get over that kind of thing. Right?

This book, guys! I try rullll hard not to be all “This book is AMAH-ZING! Read it!” because then people read it and they’re like “Calm yourself. It was only all right.” So I won’t tell you just how good I think this book is or how powerful the philosophical questions are or how it made me question how I live/want to live my life. I’ll just leave you with this quote from the book where Julie gives her theory on how zombies came to be:

‘I think we crushed ourselves down over the centuries. Buried ourselves under greed and hate and whatever other sins we could find until our souls finally hit rock bottom of the universe. And then they scraped a hole through it, into some…dark place.’ 221-222

4.5 out of 5 coffees. Read the book soon; the movie comes out this Friday. Also, the soundtrack!

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Posted by on January 29, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Breed: A Novel by Chase Novak

breedI’ve never really read anything from the Horror genre. Unless you count those scary stories that were ubiquitous growing up, which not many horror-genre fanatics would (seriously, though, why was it okay for little kids to read those stories? Do you remember the one where the spider laid eggs in the woman’s cheek?! ENDLESS NIGHTMARES!). But I heard about the premise of the novel somewhere and then I saw on the cover that Stephen King recommended it and I thought, if I’m going to try a new genre, why not start with a book stamped with the approval of the author of that genre.

So, premise. Alex and Leslie Twisden are hella-wealthy. Like, “Oh that ottoman? It’s been in the family for generations and is worth a bajillion dollars” wealthy. They have everything they could ever want, except a child. Even after spending unspeakable amounts of money and meeting with fertility specialists, taking homeopathic medications, and dealing with witch doctors, they are sans an heir. Leslie is ready to throw in the natural-birth towel and adopt a child. But after running into a formerly barren couple of their acquaintance pushing a pram, Alex insists they try just one last time.

The couple – rather reluctantly – tells them about a doctor somewhere in an eastern European country whose success rate is unmatched. It’s all very experimental but Alex is so desperate and Leslie loves him so much, that they decide to give it a go. Soon they find themselves in the cold, desolate office of the doctor who has three shots prepared for each of them. Leslie watches as Alex writhes and screams in pain with each administration. With each needle, Leslie’s resolve falters. And when it’s her turn, she refuses to go through with it. She begs Alex for mercy, a reprieve from what appeared to be excruciating pain. But Alex simply steps out of the office at the doctor’s suggestion and listens as his wife screams his name in vain.

Yikes, guys. Grounds for divorce, much?

But it works. Leslie gets pregnant. And hairy. Like, unbelievable hairy. Everywhere. And Alex is right behind her. And they’re both craving meat. The very rare kind. And Alex can’t help thinking how much he wants to maul the family lawyer. Even though all the lawyer is doing is getting Leslie off the hook for biting a doctor. But none of that matters because soon it is time for Leslie to give birth. And she has twins. Well, triplets, really, but the third is barely human and is disposed of in short order.

The twins – Adam and Alice – live what appears to be a privileged life: prep school, wealthy home, refined parents. But nobody knows that their parents lock them in their rooms every night. And their pets keep disappearing. And so do their nannies. And nobody knows that Adam and Alice have been planning their escape from a home they have never felt safe in.

All right. Enough plot summary, guys. This book could have been so good. The plot was so promising! But the tropes used by the author came off as cliche. And some of the messages – meant to be subtle, I’m sure – came off so heavy handed. For example, Adam and Alice come to depend on one of their teachers to escape their parents. And the teacher is gay. Big deal. But Novak makes such a big deal about it. He has the teacher endlessly second-guess his actions because they might be construed as predatory. But the story takes place in Manhattan in the year 2012, not in some rural town in the 1950s. If somebody observes a man hugging a young child in a Museum, no one assumes that the Pedo-bear is on the prowl.

I wanted so much to like this book. But the poor writing, the cliches, and the unnecessarily conspicuous message that gay people are just like us were so tiresome that I couldn’t reach the end soon enough.

3 out of five coffees. Also, check out this campy trailer for the book. Are these a thing now?

 
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Posted by on January 21, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire

Beautiful DisasterYou guys, this book. I understand that smutty love novels are a thing right now, what with Twilight and Fifty Shades of whatever being super hits. And I guess that’s the reason why this book is a thing. But it’s just so bad!

I already tortured myself by reading the first three Twilight books (I couldn’t get myself to pick up the fourth) and I wasn’t about to pick up the Fifty Shades trilogy because I have some self-respect. So I thought, hey, why not at least try the book that people are using for their Twilight/Fifty Shades hangover.

I would have been better off eating a shoe.

So, Abby Abernathy (yes, this is the protaganist’s actual name) has a past that she wants to distance herself from. So she attends college, dresses preppy, and pretty much behaves herself. And then she meets Travis Maddox. He is lean, muscled, fights for money, and has tattoos, as bad boys (in bad novels that use cliched tropes) are wont to do. Maddox is also kind of a womanizer in that he’ll jump anything that half notices him. And Abernathy finds this incredibly appealing but dannnnggeerrous to her plan of re-inventing herself. So she steels herself from Maddox’s douchery charm. But she doesn’t do a good job. Somehow she ends up agreeing to a bet with Maddox where, if he loses he must stop his wanton ways for a month but if he wins Abby has to stay with him for a month. Stay with him. In his room. In his bed. So, to move the plot to it’s eventual and pitiful conclusion, McGuire has Abby lose and move into Maddox’s house.

And this is when the cray comes out. Maddox is hella jealous! Like, if he sees Abby talking to another guy, he starts shaking with anger. Meanwhile, he continues to sleep with women (sometimes two at a time) with Abby sleeping in a nearby room. But see, this is all okay because they are meant 4 each other!!!11!

Look, I get it. Love (or infatuation or obsession…whatever this is) makes you do weird things, make poor choices, and not see things clearly. But if it looks, smells, and sounds like an abusive relationship, that’s what it is. I swear, this book makes me want to revoke Jamie McGuire’s right to vote. She single-handedly pushed women back a generation with this junk. Like Stephanie Meyers with Twilight.

Don’t read this. Read The Hunger Games or Female Chauvanist Pigs or, I don’t know, the back of a box of cereal. Anything but this.

One coffee out of five. Raspberry!

p.s. Apparently this is book one of a trilogy. Because, of course.

 
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Posted by on December 20, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt

So, this book has been waiting to be reviewed for ages. And it has nothing to do with the quality of this book. Or, actually, it does. It’s like a negative correlation: the better the book the harder it is for me to review it. Ah, first world problems.

What I’m trying to say is that this book is really good. It’s about these two brothers – Charlie and Eli Sister – who are basically hired guns in the mid-1800s. They are the de facto arm of the law in the western territories where state or federal government hasn’t really been established. I know what you’re thinking: vigilantes? No, fanks! But guys, these brothers don’t only answer to money or their boss. They operate under a higher and more sacred system: honor. You know when honor is involved, things get real. And quick.

So: these Sisters brothers are on their way West (near present-day California) looking for a gentlemen who has wronged their boss. And everywhere they encounter greedy-eyed cut throats in search of gold:

This perhaps was what lay at the very root of the hysteria surrounding what came to be known as the Gold Rush: Men desiring a feeling of fortune; the unlucky masses hoping to skin or borrow the luck of others, or the luck of a destination…To me, luck was something you either earned or invented through strength of character. You had to come by it honestly; you could not trick or bluff your way into it. (115-16)

Because this is the gold rush and money is what it’s all about. And whores. There are plenty of those, too. So, a little something for everyone. Well played, Mr. DeWitt.

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The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Okay, first, would you take a look at this title? It’s like Don’t Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood all over again! But it has such purpose you guys!

The book is almost entirely made up of letters: correspondences between various characters in the book. When I saw this, my thoughts went straight to Dear Mr. Henshaw and how much I disliked that book. But it works because 1) there is more than one character writing the letters, 2) each character has dimension, and 3) the characters actually carry conversations instead of writing to someone who never responds (ahem…Mr. Henshaw).

Henyways, the novel is set in post-WWII Britain and centers on Juliet Ashton, a recently-published and successful author in search of a new subject. She is also lightly batting off the attentions of a new beau, approved of only by her best friend but not the friend’s brother. Raised eyebrows,right? In the midst of all this, Ashton receives a letter from a stranger residing in Guernsey, a little known island off the coast of Britain that was occupied by Germany during the war. And this place exists, people. Like, it’s on a map and everything. Who knew?

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What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

When Alice comes to after falling off her exercise bike and hitting her head on the handle bars during her spin class, her first thought is about her unborn child. Is little Sultana (the nickname that Alice and her husband – Nick – came up with for the baby) all right? Her second thought is of Nick. He is going to be so worried about her and the baby. And once he realizes it’s no big D, he’s going to laugh at Alice’s characteristic klutzy-ness.

But it is a big D. And Alice realizes this soon after she gets to the hospital. When her sister – Elizabeth – comes to visit her, Alice can’t help but notice the coldness in her eyes and words. Her mom is also unrecognizable when she comes in. It isn’t until the doctor comes in and begins asking routine questions to check for brain damage that we realize the extent of Alice’s injury. She thinks it’s 1998. It’s really 2008.

Alice forgot everything, ya’ll. This would be bad in the best of circumstances but, you guys! Things. Have. Changed. And Alice realizes this most painfully when she calls her husband, Nick, to explain the ordeal and all she gets back is an angry and profane response accusing her of being a manipulative wretch. A dumbstruck Alice hangs up the phone after the tirade and only then is told by Elizabeth just what she’s forgotten. Alice is not 29, newly married, and expecting her first child. She is 39, has three children, and is in the middle of a divorce and a nasty custody battle.

That sucks.

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Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

I know what you’re thinking: “Middlesex? What is this, 2001?”  And to that I have to say, don’t sass me. I don’t get around to reading all the cool books when they come out. But this one remained in the back of my mind ever since I heard the first sentence: “I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan.” H-wah? How does that…? I don’t even…

And such was the incentive for reading this book. I heard murmurings around the interwebs that it had something to do with hermaphrodites or sex-changes or something, but generally tried to stay away from spoilers. And boy am I kinda glad that I did. But only kind of.

Calliope Stephanides was born twice. But before she tells you the exact circumstance of her births, she gives the most detailed back story since the Bible. No, not the Bible. Since…my high school U.S. History textbook. (Ask me how tall President Polk was. Go ahead.). But there is a reason for all this detail. Jeffrey Eugenides wants this story to be educational, heart-wrenching, and endearing. Eugenides can’t accomplish this by simply throwing the reader into an opening scene similar to The Hangover, where everything is in chaos and lacks explanation. If Eugenides does that, then the story becomes more about entertainment. Eugenides doesn’t want to entertain. He wants to change minds.

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