Becky’s Ninety-Seventh Book Review: “Affliction” by Laurell K. Hamilton

“Affliction” is the newest Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter novel by Laurell K. Hamilton. I have to say, I love these books. They are so entertaining and original as well. Sure, there are other vampire novels out there, but this book has vampires, werewolves, were-panthers, were-lions, were-rats, were-bears, and ZOMBIES! I like how these books are original and I especially like the power that Anita has. She isn’t some girl doting over a sparkly vampire…she is the one people dote over. And she knows how to handle herself. She carries more weapons on her person at one time than most marines do going into battle. More importantly, she knows how to use them. All of these things combined with a sarcastic attitude makes Anita my kind of girl. The instant I open these books I find myself sucked into Anita Blake’s world. And she is so funny! “Have one billionaire inheritance overturned because of undue influence on a zombie and everybody got all weird about it.” (Affliction, pg 3) I read that and just cracked up. It was good to be back in her strange world.

In “Afflicition” Anita gets a call at the office from a woman who claims that Anita is engaged to this woman’s son. Since she isn’t engaged and is dating more people than you could count on one hand Anita thinks she must be mistaken. Once they figure out who each other really are, Anita has to get Micah to go back to his family to say goodbye to his father who is dying. When they get there they find his dying is only the beginning. Micah’s father has what is rumored to be the ‘zombie disease’ and his family has to sit by and watch as he slowly rots from the inside out. In addition to being forced to reconcile with his estranged family while his dad slowly rots to death, Micah has to deal with all sorts of other family dramas. “Some issues stay fresh every time you open them up. It’s like evil magical Tupperware–it stays fresh forever.” (Affliction, pg 139). So true.

Before long, Anita finds herself once again thrust into the insane world of the supernatural. She is educating all the people she can about the proper way to kill different kinds of creatures and still she is seen as a freak by most of the local police force. On the one hand you just want to yell at the other cops who are being rude to her without cause. On the other hand, it makes sense why they are acting they way they do. No one is happy to have someone else come into their place of business and start doing their job better than them. At least Laurell K. Hamilton is accurate in this regard.

Would I recommend this book? Yes, I think anyone who already has been sucked into the Anita Blake world has to get their hands on this and read it. I think anyone who likes reading a combination of supernatural and smutty entertainment would enjoy this series.   

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Becky’s Ninety-Sixth Book Review: “Swimming Pool Sunday

Not everyone knows that Madeline Wickham is Sophie Kinsella. But it’s true and for awhile, Madeline Wickham wrote under her own name (Sophie Kinsella is a pen name) and “Swimming Pool Sunday” was one of those books released under Madeline Wickham.

I picked up “Swimming Pool Sunday” with the assumption that it would be another quirky, chick-lit novel filled with romance and comedic moments. “Swimming Pool Sunday” has a touch of romance, not much comedy, and is more sad than anything else. The story is told by several different people, mainly from two families. There are the Delaney’s, Ursula and Hugh along with their recently widowed daughter-in-law, Meredith. Then there are the Kembers, Barnaby, Louise, and their daughters Amelia and Katie. Barnaby and Louise separated and Louise is seeing another man, a lawyer named Cassian. The other characters who also tell the story are Alexis (also a lawyer) and Daisy, the new girl in town.

 “Swimming Pool Sunday” comes once a year when the Delaney’s open their home and their swimming pool to the neighborhood. Ursula and Hugh have made this annual tradition a big event so that when Amelia and Katie realize that they are going to miss it because it is their weekend with their dad they get very upset. Everyone makes it to the pool, but it is not the happy occasion it once was and while Barnaby is hanging out with Hugh and trying to stay upbeat about the fact that his wife asked him to move out, Louise is convinced that everyone in the small village is judging her as being the woman who left her husband because she was involved with another man. It doesn’t help that the other man is a younger one who is trying to prove himself as a lawyer. In addition to these personal dramatics something even more upsetting occurs during “Swimming Pool Sunday”. Life really can change in an instant and lives do change.

 So it is on “Swimming Pool Sunday” that everyone is interacting with each other and it is also where Daisy and Alexis meet. I’m not really sure why these two were considered important enough to be telling their stories in the book. They only had appearances a few different times and it felt a little forced. Really, the main characters were Barnaby and Louise with Cassian up there as well. Hugh and Ursula were ever present, but did a very small amount of actual narrating. More often Meredith was the one narrating when Hugh and Ursula were involved.

I don’t want to give too much away because that’s half the fun of reading a book. But I will say this, although the book is well written because I don’t think Madeline Wickham/Sophie Kinsella can produce anything not well written…this wasn’t my favorite. I didn’t like the intense seriousness of this novel. I also found it harder to relate to Louise who is arguably the main female character because she wasn’t really a good person. I definitely sided with Barnaby, especially the more I got to know Cassian and his character. (I mean really, who would fall for a lawyer?) Overall, the book was worth reading, but I wouldn’t recommend picking it up if you were looking for a light-hearted beach read. Would I recommend this book? Yes and no…I think that it was a good book, but since I was looking for something different when I picked it up I was a little taken aback. I think it is a book that would be more enjoyable if you weren’t going into it with the expectation that you were going into a romantic comedy world. Still worth the read though. 

Becky’s Ninety-Fifth Book Review: “Under the Dome” by Stephen King

Any Stephen King fan will tell you that some of his works are better than others. This is true of any author and especially true of an author with more than fifty worldwide bestsellers. I never read Stephen King when I was younger, I didn’t think I would enjoy his writing. On the one hand, I’m frustrated with myself for taking so long to discover how amazing Stephen King’s writing can be and on the other hand — because I waited so long, I never have to wait for a new novel to come out. There are still so many of his books that I haven’t read. At the moment, it is a blessing. There are various reason that I will decide to read one book over another, the reason that “Under the Dome” got moved to the top of the ‘to-read’ pile is because of it becoming a miniseries.

It took me less than a week to read “Under the Dome”. It was lucky for me that I started the book towards the end of the week. It may have been 1074 pgs, but I could not put the book down. One of the quotes on the back cover of the book states, “Stephen King ‘Returns to his Glory Days of The Stand’ (New York Daily News) with his new #1 bestselling epic”. This is an extremely accurate assessment in my opinion. I read “The Stand” for the first time not all that long ago, but I could tell while reading it that it was definitely one of Stephen King’s better works. I had the same feeling while reading “Under the Dome”.

One of the things that Stephen King does well is write about small towns. In “Under the Dome” the story focuses on Chester’s Mill, Maine where one fall day the entire town is sealed off from the rest of the world. It happens so suddenly that a groundhog is severed, birds crash into the invisible wall along with cars, people lose appendages, a plane crashes…no one knows what is going on but people understand enough to start panicking. And panic they do. A very short period of time passes — just a few days — and people start killing themselves. The milk hasn’t even gone bad yet and there are those who have already given up hope. Those living under the dome fall very quickly into a completely different world. Some people step up as heroes. Some as villains.

At the beginning of “Under the Dome” there is a map and a list of some of (but not all) the people trapped inside on what would become known as ‘dome day’. Many become key, but those worth mentioning now are Jim Rennie or “Big Jim”, Dale “Barbie” Barbara, Rose Twitchell, Junior Rennie, Reverend Lester Coggins, Reverend Piper Libby, Rusty Everett, Joe McClatchey, Brenda Perkins, Julia Shumway and there are three ‘dogs of note’ Horace, Clover, and Audrey. I mention the dogs because I love dogs and they do play important roles in the book. The two main characters would be Big Jim Rennie and Dale “Barbie” Barbara. Big Jim is the town’s second selectman and the one pulling the strings in the background on all sorts of shady things going on in this small town. Barbie is new to the town and was on his way out when the dome closed  and trapped him inside it. Part of the reason that Barbie was leaving town was because Big Jim had it out for him. Once the dome closes, Big Jim sees this as the perfect opportunity to take the small town he already mostly runs and turn it into a police state where all the cops are kids that he approved and the rules are whatever he decides to make them. The electric might be out because of the sudden appearance of the dome, but there is plenty propane in the town to tide them over. The only trouble is that almost all the propane has been ‘borrowed’ (after all, meth doesn’t cook itself) and so places that really need the power, like the hospital, are forced to work without. In just a few short days the small town transforms from one where you could leave your door unlocked to one where you no longer had constitutional rights and orders that came directly from the oval office weren’t obeyed. There were those inside the dome and those outside the dome.

Part of what made reading “Under the Dome” so addictive is the fact that what Stephen King writes holds an element of truth to it. I doubt very much that a ‘dome’ situation would arise in the near future, but the fact of the matter is that there are those who see a tragedy as an opportunity. There always have been and always will be. Just think about those who saw WWII and the holocaust as an opportunity to get rich quick. So “Under the Dome” has that element of truth to it that just makes a person stop and think and wonder. What would I be like if I was trapped in a situation like that? Would I be the hero? Would I be the villain? Would I be the girl standing around and screaming for help that wouldn’t come? It makes a person think. That is one of the things that I really like about Stephen King’s novels. Yes, they are fiction, but they hold a certain amount of truth to them that just makes reading them all the more addictive.

Would I recommend “Under the Dome”? Most definitely–especially to those die-hard Stephen King fans. I don’t think that those who stay away from reading Stephen King most of the time would like this book as much as I think they would like “11/22/63”. But his novel does bring up some interesting questions. Excellent read. It made me laugh, it made me cry, it made me hold my breath in anticipation. “Under the Dome” is a must-read for Stephen King fans everywhere. I cannot wait for my little brother to read it so we can talk about it!!

Becky’s Ninety-Fourth Book Review: “Odd Jobs” by Ben Lieberman

“Odd Jobs” by Ben Lieberman was rather different from what I usually pick up to read. It was recommended to me and so I thought I would give it a shot. It is a shorter novel, only 292 pages and therefore had quite an appeal after reading “11/22/63” which was nearly 900 pages.

“Odd Jobs” is the debut novel by this author, Ben Lieberman and to me at least, that was rather obvious. Although there is a quote on the front of the cover by James Patterson “Odd Jobs is a tightly-wound, well written mystery that I read in one sitting.” I found it to be not very well written, at least not in the beginning. To me, it was very obvious that “Odd Jobs” was a debut novel. It was rather raw in the beginning. I didn’t like the fact that the book had cover, title page, dedication page, and on the back of the dedication page chapter one started. It felt very messy in a way. I think I wouldn’t have been as bothered if the first chapter began on a fresh page. So I kind of went into the book with prejudice because of this.

Once I got into the book, I found myself wanting to read more and more of it even though I didn’t particularly care for the main character, Kevin. “Odd Jobs” is about this guy Kevin who witnessed his father and sister being killed by what is assumed to be a drunk driver. Kevin works all sorts of odd jobs because his mom turns into a zombie after his father and sister are killed. (Not a literal zombie). These jobs lead him to work at a company called Kosher World. The book goes on to describe all sorts of things that Kevin is exposed to working at Kosher World, but it isn’t until about chapter 12 that he finds out a vital piece of information that changes Kevin’s perspective and his goals. On the off chance that you are going to pick up this book to read after my review, I’m not going to say anymore.

Overall, I think that “Odd Jobs” was an okay novel. It wasn’t great, the story was interesting and it did pick up after a relatively slow start, but the writing wasn’t great either. I think it was too rough. There is writing dialogue and then there is just writing like you’re ranting. I wasn’t a big fan. I think that “Odd Jobs” might appeal to a certain audience, but I probably won’t be picking up anything else by this author.