Todd’s Review of Club Dead by Charlaine Harris

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Well, it’s that time of the month again (no, not that time).  It’s time to visit with Charlaine Harris and her cast of characters as we review Harris’ third installment in the Sookie Stackhouse series, Club Dead.  This time, Sookie begins the novel saying goodbye to her boyfriend vampire Bill, as he states he must leave immediately to work on a secret project for the Queen of Louisiana.  He shows her a computer and various disks that he tells her are full of his work, and must be hidden if any harm befalls him.  His cold departure leaves Sookie incalculably empty, as she attempts to grope with his lack of emotion and confusion about his “project”.  Even worse, she is followed and nearly escapes an attack by a were (shapeshifter that shifts to a werewolf) at Merlotte’s, the bar where she works.  Fortunately, she is protected by Bubba, a vampire who was Elvis himself.  Though she narrowly escapes the attack, Sookie is concerned that she is being followed and believes herself to be a target due to Bill and his work.  It is then that Eric informs her that not only has Bill left without telling anyone, but he left due to the summoning of his maker, Lorena, and now he has disappeared.  Sookie, although betrayed and hurt, agrees to travel to a vampire bar known as Club Dead in Jackson, Mississippi to help locate Bill by gathering intelligence from humans there.  Eric can not accompany her as the bar is in the territory of the King of Mississippi, Russell Edgington, who would instigate a war if he was involved.

Sookie travels to Jackson under the protection of Alcide, a were hired by Eric to escort and help Sookie blend in with the local supernatural population.  Sparks fly as the two spend time together, and Sookie has to mightily hold off her feelings for Alcide as she tries to locate Bill.  As they enter Club Dead for the first time, Sookie is threatened by a were, who is soon sent packing by Edgington himself.  Through her telepathy Sookie learns from Edgington’s escort that Bill is being held and tortured at Edgington’s estate!  Trying to remain calm, they accept an invitation by Edgington to return to Club Dead the following night to learn more information.  The next evening the club is assaulted by the Fellowship of the Sun, an anti-vampire church intent on killing vampires.  Will Sookie and Alcide survive the attack?  Will she be able to save Bill?

I must say I really am torn with this novel.  On one hand Harris builds the suspense extremely well, with an ending that doesn’t disappoint.  However on the other hand, it takes the book a while to get there.  Yes, I understand that there are complicated relationship issues with Sookie and Bill and Alcide that do need to be worked out, but I think these took center stage to the action and adventure that I had come to know so well with Harris’ writing.  Once all those issues are more or less worked out, however, the action-packed ending really had me on the edge of my seat.  Harris’ description of Sookie’s “gift” has gotten really good, and I feel as though I’m learning more about it along with Sookie herself.  Additionally, she is better able to write about the interplay between the supernatural beings in this book as the reader has more background due to the first two books.  Harris does not need to explain about vampire rules and laws, as they have been covered previously.  The more I read the books in this series the more I like Sookie’s character.  Smart, determined, funny, and honest, Sookie is everything that a good main character should be and more.  I can’t wait to see what else Harris has in store in the next book: Dead to the World.

3 out of 5 stars

Club Dead by Charlaine Harris
Penguin Group (2003)
Paperback 272 pages
ISBN: 9780441010516

#19 A Review of Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason by Helen Fielding

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Bridget Jones is back and better than ever in her second novel entitled Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason.  Enticed by Helen Fielding’s first work in the series, Bridget Jones’ Diary, I couldn’t stand not knowing how Bridget got on (as they say in England).  Influenced by Jane Austen’s Persuasion, Fielding throws us back into the world of Bridget via her hysterical diary entries for another trip as we get to see what makes this interesting woman tick.

Bridget Jones has been dating her boyfriend Mark Darcy for four weeks!  Life is great: her weight is down, she’s smoking less, and her relationship is going fantastic (at least she thinks it is).  Mark begins talking about a woman he works with more and more, dropping little “Rebecca” bombs here and there.  When Bridget meets Rebecca out at a bar one evening and finds out about a law society dinner that Mark hasn’t mentioned yet, she loses it.  Being a self-help book junkie she begins thinking the worst about her relationship.  Her worrying leads to nothing, as Mark asks her to the dinner a few days later.  The law dinner comes and goes, as does a very special Valentine’s day where Mark tells Bridget that he loves her.  The two soon find themselves invited to Rebecca’s parents country estate for a mini-break where Rebecca does everything in her power to separate Bridget and Mark.  Rebecca wants Mark as her own so bad that she tells her nephew that Bridget and Mark are breaking up and that Bridget is free for the taking.  He tries to kiss Bridget, and before she can throw him off Mark and Rebecca walk in and see everything.  The two end their weekend by breaking up which sets Bridget into a major funk.  Will Bridget ever be able to convince Mark that he’s the only one she loves?

Helen Fielding has created one of the FUNNIEST literary characters ever with Bridget Jones.  I literally could not stop laughing with this book.  Those who have read the first Bridget Jones book know that Bridget is OBSESSED with Colin Firth, especially Colin Firth as Fitzwilliam Darcy.  Fielding writes an eight page interview between Bridget and Colin Firth that is honestly one of the funniest things I’ve ever read.  The way Fielding writes Bridget’s thoughts are uncanny, making me feel as though I were reading my own thoughts at times.

I really liked the pace of the novel as well.  It moved along at a quick enough pace to make the reader enjoy the story but not feel bogged down by detail.  Fielding writes a lot of things with abbreviations and short hand, which makes The Edge of Reason a fairly fast read.  The way in which she infuses her work with the Persuasion storyline works perfectly and naturally. 

For those fans who have seen the movie version, be prepared for some major differences.  Daniel Cleaver does not have a large portrayal in the book at all.  He is limited to part of a scene here and there.  Instead, the book is filled with additional hysterical storylines, with my personal favorite being the one about the construction worker who blows a hole in Bridget’s wall and leaves it there for the course of the entire novel.

This book is chock-full of the relationship ups and downs that many women experience in life.  What’s great about Fielding’s writing is that she makes fun of the way women sometimes react, such as the obsession with self-help books and the advice our friends and parents give us.  She finds humor in the way we exaggerate every little event in life, and that’s what makes her books so enjoyable.  I highly recommend the series for people with a great sense of humor.  You won’t be left wanting with this series.

4 out of 5 Stars

This is my fifth completed review for the Page to Screen Challenge

Penguin Group (2001)
Paperback 352 pages
ISBN: 9780140298475

#16 A Review of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dreadfully Ever After by Steve Hockensmith

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Dreadfully Ever After, written by Steve Hockensmith, is the final chapter in the Pride and Prejudice and Zombies trilogy.  Set in Regency England, Hockensmith continues the story of Lizzie and Darcy and their epic battle against the “dreadfuls”.  Although the previous book ended as all of Austen’s books do: with a wedding, the newlywed couple has a short reprieve to rest on their laurels as Hockensmith places us right back in the action in this thrilling ending to the series.

All love stories that end happily should go on being that way, right?  Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth have been married for four years when Darcy begins noticing how depressed Elizabeth seems.  Thinking she is unhappy with their life together he decides to bring it up to her during one of their walks throughout Pemberley.  As the two are discussing the cause of Elizabeth’s unhappiness a young child emerges from behind a tree.  Recognizing the young boy as a servant’s child, Darcy kneels down to ask the child why he is alone.  Darcy realizes all too late that the young boy is a dreadful and is unable to block the attack, causing the young boy to take a huge chunk out of Darcy’s neck!  Elizabeth flings the boy against a tree, causing his head to explode and rushes back to Darcy’s side, noting that he is losing a lot of blood.  She knows that he is going to turn into a dreadful and that she must behead him before he turns.  Elizabeth looks at Darcy’s face and knows that she can’t lose him.  Unable to behead him she hoists him on her back, rushes to Pemberley, covers his wound, and rushes to write a letter to the only person who can help her, Darcy’s aunt, Lady Catherine.  Lady Catherine comes to attend Darcy in person with a tonic that slows the turning process.  Lady Catherine extracts from Elizabeth a promise that she will go to London to pursue news of a cure and leave Darcy to Lady Catherine and Anne.  Elizabeth uneasy about leaving Darcy alone with Anne and Lady Catherine realizes she has no other choice, agrees and leaves for London.   Why does Lady Catherine want full control over Darcy’s health? What do she and Anne have up their sleeves?  Will Elizabeth discover a cure?

With this being the final chapter in the Pride and Prejudice and Zombies trilogy, it was important in my eyes to see all three books tie together.  Hockensmith definitely succeeds on this front.  He takes the characters from the first two novels and infuses them with a whole new set of “ridiculous” characters.  The characters that he’s created both in the prequel and this novel are definitely worth taking notice of.  He creates brilliantly multi-layered humorous characters that add humor and depth to the story.  Most people would respond to this by thinking, “It’s a book about zombies, how deep can it be?”  Let me tell you: this book does get deep.  It tackles very existential questions, chiefly what should you listen to more, your heart or your brain?  It also begs the question: how far would you go to save the one you love?

My biggest complaint about the book was its ending.  It seemed so rushed compared to the rest of the book.  The events unfold at a fairly even pace, but the last 20 pages just seemed like a compressed and hastily constructed ending.  Georgiana’s story was completely forgotten throughout the entire novel.  She starts out as an active member of the story, but then is sent away on an errand for Lady Catherine.  The next time we see her is at the very end of the novel and I sat there wondering what really happened to her.  Where did she go?

If you’re new to the P&P&Z trilogy my advice would be to stick with the prequel and the sequel, as they are the shining stars here.  Hockensmith should be congratulated as the stand-out author of the franchise.  He expertly creates a vibrant story before and beyond the original work, and should be commended for his efforts.  I heartily encourage anyone who is a P&P&Z fan to give this final book a try.

4 out of 5 stars

This is my tenth completed review for the Historical Fiction Challenge

Quick Classics (2011)
Paperback 320 pages
ISBN: 9781594745027
 
For a review of the original P&P&Z click here
For a review of the prequel Dawn of the Dreadfuls click here

#15 A Review of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls by Steve Hockensmith

Cover ImageThe success of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies bought a new genre to the world of Jane Austen fan fiction, the mash-up.  Many fans clamored for more and Quirk classics and Steve Hockensmith happily listened to them and brought us a prequel to P&P&Z, Dawn of the Dreadfuls.  Set four years before the events of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Dawn of the Dreadfuls tackles the questions of “how did Elizabeth Bennet turn into such a fearsome warrior?” and “how did the dreadfuls come about?”
 
The inhabitants of Meryton live a nice quiet life attending balls, dinner parties, masses, weddings, and funerals with no fear of the dreadfuls.  The funeral that takes place at the beginning of the novel changes all of that.  In the middle of the service the corpse sits up in its coffin and comes back alive.  Mr. Bennet, a veteran of the last war of the dreadfuls years earlier, knows how to stop this zombie from hurting anyone.  Getting everyone out of the church except Lizzie, Mary, the priest, and himself, they quickly discuss what must be done to kill the zombie.  This singular event causes Mr. Bennet to panic because the unmentionables are back in England!  Rushing back home after the funeral Mr. Bennet turns the family’s greenhouse into an outdoor dojo and begins trying to train his five daughters in the deadly arts.  (The deadly arts are a mixture of ninja skills and martial arts training).  Seeing that all is not going well in their training Mr. Bennet writes to some “friends in the east” and is sent eighteen year old Master Hawksworth.  It’s up to Hawksworth to turn the Longbourn ladies into unmentionable warriors. Will he succeed and make warriors out of them, or will he fail and see them fall to zombies??
 
Dawn of the Dreadfuls was SO much better than the original.  I think a lot had to do with the fact that it was a completely new and unique storyline.  There was no original text that Hockensmith needed to change around or alter, and that added to the pleasure I had in reading it.  Hockensmith weaves his own storyline into what Grahame-Smith originally wrote seamlessly. His rendition of how Elizabeth became the fearsome warrior she was in P&P&Z was awesome, but most importantly it was believable.  What we see in her starts out as uncertainty in her abilities and turns to complete belief in her strength and passion as a warrior.  Hockensmith has an uncanny ability to get into Elizabeth’s head and write her in a way that makes the reader understand her journey.
 
Hockensmith also gives us a large amount of colorful characters that adds to the humor of the novel.  The funniest character by far has to be the armless and legless Capt Cannon.  He is strapped into a wheel barrel and is “driven” around by two soldiers who he calls left limb and right limb.  His characterization is so eccentric that it’s just humorous.  Over the course of the novel you come to find out that Cannon was Mrs. Bennet’s first love.  There is one scene where he is in the sitting room with Mrs. Bennet reading her poetry, and in the middle of a sonnet yells for his right limb to give Mrs. Bennet a rose and for his left limb to turn the page.  The ridiculousness of his character added to my enjoyment of the novel infinitely.
 
Between the interesting character additions and unique storyline I found myself snickering throughout the novel.  Even if you didn’t like the original, you should definitely try reading Dawn of the Dreadfuls.  This new and fresh storyline was really intriguing, spunky, and a lot of fun!
 
4 out of 5 Stars
 

This is my ninth completed review for the Historical Fiction Challenge

 
Quick Classics (2010)
Paperback 284 pages
ISBN: 9781594744549
 
For my review of the original Pride and Prejudice and Zombies click here

A Review of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen & Seth Grahame-Smith

Cover ImagePride and Prejudice and Zombies unknowingly changed the world of books when it was published in 2009.  What started as a random idea by Quirk Books editor Jason Rekulak turned into a literary phenomenon.  “Mash-ups” became the new hit thing with this particular novel spurring a prequel (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls), sequel (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dreadfully Ever After), a graphic novel and upcoming feature film of the orignal Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.
 
Regency England has become overrun with dreadfuls (zombies) and it’s up to Mr. Bennet and his warrior daughters to protect the residents of Meryton.  Keeping in line with Austen’s original work, The Bennets attend a ball in town where they meet with their new neighbor Mr. Bingley, his sisters, and the haughty Mr. Darcy.  Darcy’s “she is tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me” comment is overheard by Elizabeth just as in the original, but instead of walking it off, she vows that she will slice Darcy’s throat to avenge her honor.  As she begins to prepare for his death zombies break through the windows scaring the townsfolk attending the ball.  It’s up to the Bennet sisters and their mastery in the deadly arts (a combination of ninja skills and the martial arts) to save everyone.  Darcy, while watching Elizabeth, realizes that he has never seen a woman with a more beautiful set of eyes and skill at wielding a blade.   The book continues along in this style staying true to the original plot while infusing it with zombie attacks:  Bingley still has a ball at Netherfield, Lydia runs away with Wickham, and Darcy’s failed proposal at Rosings.  All these events joyfully still happen, there just happen to be zombies in the mix.
 
While the idea behind P&P&Z is an incredibly clever and innovative one, it falls flat in its execution.  The mash-up at times seems very forced and was far from seamless.  The book is literally Austen’s work with a word changed here or there and a sentence about zombies added in.  Had Grahame-Smith taken away the original wording of Austen I think the idea might have worked better.  In my opinion I think having complete creative control with the book would have made it read less like a disjointed novel and more like a new creative venture.  I understand that to be a mash-up it must have both the original work and new wording, but it didn’t seem like Grahame-Smith even tried to stick with sounding Austen-ish.
 
What I did like about the novel was its humor.  Imagining Lizzie and her sisters performing the “pentagram of death”, a martial arts move to dispatch those pesky zombies, made me laugh out loud especially when juxtaposing it against Jane’s normal demure attitude.  Austen purists, stay far away from this book.  It is filled with sexual innuendo and double entendre that while funny, would make purists cringe and throw the book half way across a room.  The humor won me over enough for me to finish the entire novel.  I like to think of myself as someone who’s open to reading anything at least once, this book however will stay as just that, a one time read for me. 
 
3 out of 5 Stars
 
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith
Quick Classics (2009)
Paperback 320 pages
ISBN: 9781594743344
 
You can check out my review of the graphic novel version of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies here

#13 A Guest Review of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Graphic Novel, adapted by Tony Lee and Illustrated by Cliff Richards

As a big fan of graphic novels and Jane Austen fan fiction I was incredibly excited when my friend Laurel Ann (moderator of the Austenprose blog) offered me the opportunity to review the graphic novel version of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.  My review has been posted today and I do hope you’ll go check it out!!

For a direct link to my review click here

This is my seventh completed review for the Historical Fiction Challenge

#2 A Review of Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk by David Sedaris

David Sedaris, well-known for his satirical writing style, is back with a “modest bestiary.”  Bestiary tales, for those unfamiliar with the term, are moral fables usually told about animals or mythical creatures.  Sedaris uses a huge array of all different animals to tell some of the funniest moral tales I’ve ever read. 

The book is chock full of these fantastically funny tales: a squirrel who dates a chipmunk, a mouse who thinks a snake is her baby, a grooming baboon, storytelling warblers, rats that live in a lab, storks learning the ropes of parenting and much much more!!

One of the most awesome things about this book was that even in its childlike style, it tackles some larger issues.  For example, one of the stories is about a female chipmunk who dates a male squirrel.  The chipmunk’s family does not agree with the relationship because they are different species.  They force her to break up with him, but over the course of her lifetime she always thinks back on him.  Some people won’t read beyond the simple humor in the story, but deeper thinkers can see this as possibly representing a bi-racial relationship.  Lots of the stories are like the squirrel and chipmunk story: on the surface they’re fun and humourous tales, but deep down they do have a moral and deeper meaning.  Having an adult write a book of morals for adults with a humorous slant is absolutely genius.  It takes the problems/issues we face as adults and shows us how to do the right thing, much like how we learned morals in our childhoods.

I would be completely remiss if I did not mention the fabulous illustrations by Ian Falconer. Falconer is most known for the Olivia series he created, wrote, and illustrated.  While Sedaris’ writing can definitely stand alone, it is Ian Falconer’s illustrations that truly take the book to the next level.  The drawings are just as humorous and twisted as the stories themselves.  Sedaris and Falconer are a match made in literary history.

If you have never read a David Sedaris book then I would definitely suggest this one as your first.  You will not be disappointed in his writing style at all. The book is a quick, fast-paced read that you won’t be able to put down.  Definitely give it a shot!

4 out of 5 Stars

Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk By David Sedaris, Illustrations by Ian Falconer
Little Brown and Company (2010)
Hardcover 159 pages
ISBN: 9780316038393
 
 
To Find More Books by David Sedaris Click Here
 
To Check out David Sedaris’s Website Click Here