Saturday, December 30, 2006

huh. ooookay.

Title: Edge of Darkness
Author: Cherry Adair

Serena and Duncan have known each other since they were in wizard school together as kids, and they've never gotten along - all that latent sexual tension, I suppose.

Serena recently married and then was widowed by a much older man, who left her tons of money to do good with, and she's working on a project to help grow food in the artic circle.

Duncan's an agent for the magical branch of a secret government agency (yes, you read that correctly).

And they're both competing for the post of Head Wizard.

And Duncan's family is cursed to never find true love.

And someone's killing off other wizards and stealing their powers - Duncan's working to solve the case.

Duncan and Serena need to work together, but can't help each other in the Head Wizard contests or they'll be disqualified, but, being a man, he gets all overprotective about her and stuff.

SPOILER: Serena knows how to break the curse, and does so, because she's in love with Duncan. She won the tasks and earned Head Wizard, but gave the post to Duncan by giving him the Head Wizard medallion, which is a special piece of jewelry once owned by the ancestor that was actually cursed, so that breaks the curse. Unfortunately, breaking the curse means giving up all her magical powers. At least she still has millions. The bad guy was a guy they also knew from school who was the third competitor for Head Wizard - Duncan kills him at the end of the book, he and Serena live happily ever after, and the lovers from 500 years ago that started the curse get to live happily ever after after all.

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posted by ket at 1:25 PM


Friday, December 29, 2006

Never Been Spanked

Title: The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty
Author: Anne Rice, writing as A.N. Rouquelaure

It’s an innocent childhood tale, a story mothers tell every night to tuck their sweet little ones into bed. Once upon a time, they croon, a beautiful princess was cursed by a Wicked Fairy to prick her finger upon a spindle and die upon her sixteenth birthday. But the Good Fairy, who couldn’t let the Wicked Fairy upstage her in such a dastardly manner, modified the curse so that the beautiful princess would merely sleep – along with her parents and the rest of the royal household – for one hundred years, until Prince Charming should come along and wake her with a chaste, delicate kiss on the lips.

All happens as the Good Fairy foretells – the Princess sleeps, one hundred years pass, and a Prince battles his way through the jungle to waken her. And the story stops there, with Beauty and Prince Charming presumably riding off together into the sunset, to live together happily ever after among butterflies and bunnies and bonny bouncing poppets.

But in Anne Rice’s world, this is just where the fun begins. And when I say fun, I actually mean spanking. Lots and lots of spanking.

What little plot there is to The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty didn’t really register with me, since I mostly skimmed from one dirty section to another to laugh over how scandalous the spanking truly got (a friend gave me the book to cheer me up after a particularly stressful week at work.) But here’s what I managed to pick up:

After the Prince wakens Beauty (with something amounting to rather more than a kiss), he claims her as a tribute to take back as a sex slave to his own kingdom. Her royal parents don’t object too strenuously to the idea, since they were once slaves, too, and remember how the experience made them “wise.” A little sexual servitude, they figure, will do Beauty some good. As Emo Phillips once said: “You don't appreciate a lot of stuff in school until you get older. Little things like being spanked every day by a middle aged woman: Stuff you pay good money for in later life.”

In fact, the Prince’s palace is basically one big continual spanking orgy. How his family has time for ruling a country or collecting taxes I never really figured out, since they’re pretty much “distracted” twenty-four hours a day. There are naked sex slaves everywhere, scurrying about on their hand and knees. The castle even comes complete with punishment rooms, one for those who find themselves “reluctant” in their slave duties, and another for those who find themselves…er…a little too eager. Guess which group Beauty falls into?

Indeed, Beauty is so adept at being spanked that she eventually attracts the eye of the intimidating and possibly evil Queen herself. She also manages to find time in her busy spanking schedule for an affair with another slave, Prince Alexi, who tells her all about his experience with spanking. Eventually, Beauty misbehaves badly enough (deliberately, I think), so that she gets sent to “the village” for more spanking punishment, where she will be auctioned off to some plebian for a summer’s worth of labor (use your imagination). She meets the handsome and blue-eyed Prince Tristan on the cart carrying them to the village, and even though they’re both tied up, they immediately have flexible acrobatic sex (but no spanking). As for what happens next, you’ll have to wait for ket to review the second book. (Yes, it is a trilogy!)

Basically, all you need to know is that someone gets spanked or chained about every five pages or so. Beauty herself, I think, is naked for the entire book. And there’s lots and lots of sex, with no gender restrictions whatsoever. But no animals…at least not yet. There are rumors, I hear, of a kitten somehow becoming involved in the sequels.

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posted by Elizabeth at 1:45 PM


Pass the Katana, Please

Title: The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead
Author: Max Brooks

"The dead walk among us. Zombies, ghouls--no matter what their label--these somnambulists are the greatest threat to humanity, other than humanity itself. To call them predators and us prey would be inaccurate. They are a plague, and the human race their host. The lucky victims are devoured, their bones scraped clean, their flesh consumed. Those not so fortunate join the ranks of their attackers, transformed into putrid, carnivorous monsters. Conventional warfare is useless against these creatures, as is conventional thought. The science of ending life, developed and perfected since the beginning of our existence, cannot protect us from an enemy that has no 'life' to end. Does this mean the living dead are invincible? No. Can these creatures be stopped? Yes. Ignorance is the undead's strongest ally, knowledge their deadliest enemy. That is why this book was written: to provide the knowledge necessary for survival against these subhuman beasts."

Shortly before the Class Four Solanum outbreak known in the annals of history as "World War Z", a modest little book was published that purported to be a survivalist guide for an undead attack. In great detail, it discussed strategies and techniques that everyday citizens could utilize to protect themselves from zombies, whether encountered singly or in hordes. Various weapons and modes of transportation were compared and contrasted, and the best ways of fortifying one’s residence were analyzed. For historical context, a section detailing recorded zombie attacks was also included. (Have you ever wondered about the real reason Hadrian’s Wall was built?) Sometimes, the relevant information was imparted in easy-to-remember aphorisms, such as "Blades don’t need reloading" and "Use your head: cut off theirs."

Mere survival was the manual’s entire focus, and it’s information was presented in an efficient and straightforward manner, with simple illustrations when appropriate. But despite the guide’s practical utility, it was dismissed at the time and mocked as foolish paranoia.

Today, after the death of millions and the destruction of entire countries, we all know better.

Although somewhat dated, Max Brooks’ The Zombie Survival Guide is still the premier resource for sensible individuals willing to face facts and prepare themselves for battling the undead. Brooks’ ability to predict what defenses would be most effective is disturbingly prophetic. Which weapon dispatches Zach most efficiently -- a chainsaw, semiautomatic rifle, Molotov cocktail, or Shaolin spade? During an outbreak, is it best to travel by camel, armored car, helicopter, or motorcycle? The answers to all these questions, and more, can be found in this small, easily portable guide. For maximum utility in case of an outbreak, I would suggest the handy, plastic-encased waterproof edition, which has the kind of durability that you just can’t get with an ordinary paperback.

But remember -- this is a civilian guide only. The focus is entirely upon protecting oneself and one’s family. Do not look here if you’re interested in the wider concerns of how an entire society and economy can prepare for another Solanum outbreak. You will not find the answers you seek.

We won World War Z. However, this is no time for the ordinary citizen to lapse into complacency and sloth. Our manner of life has been changed forever, and never again can we leave ourselves as unprepared as we once were. Remember what Brooks himself said: "The zombie may be gone, but the threat lives on."

Truer words have never been spoken.


posted by Elizabeth at 9:56 AM


Thursday, December 28, 2006

Christmas Reading Fun!

I'm allergic to my parents' house. Or, more specifically, the cat. I spend a lot of time hiding in my old bedroom when I visit. And that means lots of reading. Good thing I was only there for a few days...

Title: Perfect Weapon
Author: Amy J. Fetzer

Dr. Sydney Hale is a brilliant chemist working in a super-secret lab 600 feet below some caves that are a tourist attraction. One day, she convinces the Marine guard to let her use the escape elevator to get some fresh air, as usual, but when she comes back down, death and destruction has hit the labs – they’re under siege, and she just barely makes it back to the surface to run away, covered in the Marine’s blood (she tried to save him, but he was shot point-blank). Sydney reminds me a lot of that character Denise Richards played in that James Bond movie – the one who was supposedly a brilliant and beautiful scientist.

While running away, she meets Jack Wilson, a high-level Marine Captain who’s known for his incredible covert skills, etc. – he’s out with some of his friends, helping to thin the deer population.

The bad guys shoot at Jack and Sydney. They kill his Marine buddies. Sydney gets away from Jack, because she can’t trust anyone, and eventually makes it to her safe house. The NSA, who was responsible for the lab, thinks she’s involved with the attack because she’s the only survivor. Jack tracks her down, then they go on the run together, evading the bad guys and the NSA.

The reason everyone needs to find them is that Sydney was working on an antidote to Sarin gas, and she figured it out, but never wrote down the formula. Thankfully, she has a photographic memory, and remembers exactly what needs to be done to save people.

Lots of shooting. The bad guys kill each other off. And there was an inside person at the lab working with the baddies, but I don’t feel like giving them away (especially since I’d have to provide all kinds of setup for it here).

All you really need to know is that Jack saves Sydney about once every 15 pages. They have sex before they really like each other much. Then they do that as often as possible as a stress relief. Then they finally realize they’re in love, and have more sex. The big climactic scene also allows Sydney to test her antidote, since Jack gets gassed, and if she’s not as brilliant as she thought, her true love will die. And all the people die and the good ones live happily ever after.

Title: Murder Unleashed
Author: Elaine Viets

This is part of a series – the Dead-End Job Mysteries. I think that’s a more fitting description for the book itself.

Helen’s a receptionist at a dog grooming salon in Ft. Lauderdale. She’s on the run from her ex-husband somewhere in the Midwest, so she’s using an assumed name and can only take jobs where she’s paid in cash. All the other people at the salon are flaming gay men (I LOVE flaming gay men!), but they’re, unfortunately, boring caricatures. Anyway, one dog is dognapped by the owner’s ex, who they didn’t know was allowed to pick up the dog post-grooming. Helen goes to drop off another spoiled dog at his owner’s house, and finds her dead and naked on the patio, so she runs and doesn’t tell the police, because she doesn’t want to be revealed.

She’s sleeping with her neighbor, a PI (how fortunate!). The landlady is a stereotypical crazy old lady in Florida who wears purple high-heeled sandals to inspect the roof after a hurricane.

Unlike most reviews, I actually JUST finished the book, and it was so pointless I still don’t really remember anything else from it. Various groomers are accused of murdering the owner. Helen’s in the thick of it all. There’s some blackmail and mistaken identities, but it all works out in the end. Ugh.

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posted by ket at 10:44 PM


Friday, December 22, 2006

Did everyone just stop reading once December hit?

2 super-short "reviews" here, since it's crazy late and I really need to return the books to the library tomorrow morning before hitting the road, since they're already pretty overdue... Spoilers will be all over the place in here, since I'm not feeling creative enough to provide teases.


Title: Cross My Heart
Author: Carly Phillips

Lillian's parents died in a car crash when she was a teenager; her evil uncle became her guardian, and as part of his abuse of her, to set her straight, he sent her into foster care. There, she met Ty and Hunter, who became her best friends. She and Ty always had chemistry, but didn't act on it. The three of them concocted a plan that involved a staged car crash so she could escape to NYC while everyone thought she was dead. It worked.

Ten years later, she's known as Lacey, and her uncle's trying to get her declared legally dead so he can have her (significant) inheritance. Ty's now a PI (convenient!), so he tracks down Lacey, and convinces her to come back to town. They sleep together. Hunter's got a crush on Molly, who's the daughter of some woman who's trying to marry the uncle for his (future) money - she's a serial golddigger, and this would be husband number five or so. Uncle's no longer quite as evil, but the lawyer/trustee/whatever is blackmailing him.

Then someone starts trying to kill Lacey. She and Ty blame the uncle. Uncle's no longer quite as evil. Lawyer's the bad guy. Uncle and woman break up when he has no money. Lacey and Ty live happily ever after. Hunter and Molly don't get together, but that's because they're bound to show up in a sequel to this book. The end.

Title: Born in Death
Author: J.D. Robb (actually, it's our favorite trashy romance novelist, Nora Roberts, using her penname for the futuristic mystery series...)

Eve, a hardworking and talented detective in NYC somewhere around the year 2060, is married to Roarke, an incredibly wealthy and attractive businessman (think Trump plus George Clooney). This is like the 25th book in a series (ok, somewhat less, but you get the idea).

Eve's best friend, Mavis, is a pregnant rock star. One of the friends she met in childbirth classes goes missing days before she's due, so she guilts Eve into heading up the investigation, even though Eve is a homicide detective. Eve's also working on the vicious murders of a pair of (engaged) accountants.

Amazingly enough, the seemingly unconnected events aren't so unconnected. The accountants found discrepancies in their accounts, and were offered bribes, then tortured and killed. Turns out the companies having the discrepancies were part of a larger scheme involving buying and selling babies. Tandy (the missing pregger chick) had looked into giving the kid up for adoption, then backed out. The bad guys were mad, so they kidnapped her, and were about to steal the kid immediately after birth and sell it to the parents to whom they had already promised it. They'd done it a few times before, in various other cities/countries.

Eve figured it out in time, and saved the day. Tandy survived, and she and Mavis gave birth to healthy kids who each were partially named for Eve. Awww. Eve and Roarke are terrified of children, and childbirth even more, so they spend a great deal of time tormenting each other with images of labor, etc., and they'll probably never have children. Until Nora/J.D. wants to end the series with a bang, of course :-) but that's probably 20-30 books down the line...

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posted by ket at 1:36 AM


Sunday, December 03, 2006

My Big, Fat Greek PI

Title: Dirty Laundry
Author: Tori Carrington (the pen name for a husband and wife team from Toledo, OH - boring!)

Sophie's a good Greek girl in Queens; he fiance was banging her best friend/maid of honor on their wedding morning, so they broke up. She joined her uncle's PI agency, then he conveniently went incommunicado on a fishing trip.

Mom's totally interfering. Dad's fighting with Grandpa about what food should be served in a Greek restaurant (this battle has been ongoing for years). Grandma's an alkie. And Sophie's supposed to marry a good Greek boy and pop out babies.

The local dry cleaner goes missing, and mob involvement is suspected. Mom guilts Sophie into looking into it. Turns out a boy she went to school with is now a local mob boss. She goes to visit him, and he asks her to "have pasta" with him sometime. Nice subltety there.

And there's a rival PI/process server, Jake (who's Australian) with whom Sophie has a love-hate relationship. Jake probably actually works for some secret branch of the government because he has all kinds of weird connections and sources.

The mob attacks Sophie. Jake saves her. Turns out Uncle Tolly had run off to the Carribbean and set it up to look like the mob killed him so nobody would track him down, but Sophie looking into things made the mob nervous, even though they weren't actually involved, and that's why they literally gave her concrete shoes at one point (Jake saved her before she was pushed into the river).

Jake and Sophie end up unresolved (and unconsummated, though she tried...). Sounds like another book's on the way.

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posted by ket at 12:34 PM


ahh, Nora

Title: Morrigan's Cross
Author: Nora Roberts

The first in a trilogy (shocker).

Sometime I really click with Nora's writing. This time...

Hoyt's a sorcerer in 12th century Ireland. His twin brother, Cian, was just turned into a vampire. The goddess Morrigan talks to Hoyt and transports him into the future to lead the battle agains Lilith the vampire queen. Next thing he knows, he's in Cian's club in present-day Manhattan (Cian didn't time-travel - vampires are immortal, so he lived through the intervening hundreds of years, and amassed quite a fortune).

Glenna is a modern-day witch, drawn to Hoyt through her dreams, so she tracks him down in the club and joins the battle. Cian takes them to his castle in Ireland (coincidentally, the family's ancestral home, which he bought again in the 1600's or so). There, they're joined by Moira, a fairy queen, and Larkin, her cousin, who can shape-shift into various animals, as additional members of the vampire-fighting team. Cian is mostly on their side - he survives by drinking animal blood, and hasn't had human in 700 years or something.

Hoyt, Moira, and Larkin have issues dealing with modernization. That doesn't stop Hoyt and Glenna from falling in love, even though he's hopelessly old-fashioned and chauvinistic. Blah, blah, they battle Lillith and her minions, it's pretty much a draw, and then the story ends. To be continued in book 2.

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posted by ket at 12:26 PM


for all the pudgy thirty-something women out there...

Title: Close Enough to Kill
Author: Beverly Barton

This will be brief, as I don't care enough about the book to remind myself what I read almost a month ago.

Bernie (Bernadette) is a small-town sheriff, overshadowed by the memory of her father, the previous sheriff (now retired). Bernie's sortof a solidly built, average-looking woman who could stand to lose 15 pounds, as her mother constantly reminds her.

Jim is a former college football superstar who was a superstar detective in Memphis but who moves to Bernie's town because his ex-wife moved there with their kid, and he wanted to be nearby, so he takes what essentially is a demotion and goes to work for Bernie.

Bernie has a gorgeous little sister who dates all the men in town. Jim's son (Kevin) comes to live with him full-time when the ex gets cancer. And there's a serial killer who sends stalker-like presents and then graphic drawings to his victims before he kidnaps them, rapes and abuses them for a few weeks, then drops their naked bodies in the road for the police to find them.

Shockingly enough, they have a hell of a time tracking down the killer. In the meantime, though Kevin hates his father because he blames him for his parents' divorce, he gets along really well with Bernie, and secretly wants them to date. A few more women die, then right after Bernie and Jim realize (and act upon) their mutual attraction, little sis gets captured by the crazy.

Jim saves the day. Everyone lives happily ever after. There's even a nauseating epilogue, 10 years in the future, where all the characters have small children and stuff. Blah, blah, blah.

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posted by ket at 12:18 PM


Friday, December 01, 2006

Crabby Friday Night

I detest Friday nights. While everyone else seems to become miraculously regenerated after a week of penal servitude, I crash. The week’s sleep-deprivation, lack of real food and exercise, and sheer disgust with my fellow human beings makes me the crabbiest Happy Hour companion in the world. So tonight I spurned invitations to two concerts and one holiday office party, all in favor of a night of introverted bliss.

Well, introverted bliss and amber cider of the yummy alcohol variety. Mmmm…

And what better way to spend such an evening other than venting all my misanthropic spleen upon crappy books? None of the following monstrosities deserved their own entry, so here they are, all lumped together in one horrific pile of steaming poo. Let the stinky journey begin!

Title: Shakespeare by Another Name: A Biography of Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, the Man Who Was Shakespeare
Author: Mark Anderson

The very existence of this book proves that even serious, respected academics can be taken in by bullshit conspiracy theories. In my opinion, Edward de Vere was not – and never could’ve been – the author of the wonderful plays written by someone by the name of William Shakespeare. Why? Simply because he was an arrogant, selfish ass who was far too concerned with money and power to have the sympathetic, vivacious imagination that created colorful characters like as Prince Hal, Shylock, and Puck.

Also, based upon the few verified writing samples of his in this book, he was a seriously crappy writer with no sense of humor.

The Oxfordian theory seems to be based upon the ridiculous notion that only someone highly educated and cultured could’ve written Shakespeare’s plays – that the beauty and intelligence of the language can only be the result of money, leisure, and noble blood.

Well, this isn’t the Shakespeare I love. That Shakespeare was an energetic wit, someone who approached life with a wink and a nod, and who was always sympathetic to the outsider. Most of all, my Shakespeare is funny, and understands the value of a good dirty joke. He wrote for the everyday person, and not for some half-rate academic who’s far too taken with what he thinks is his own subversive intellect (i.e., Oxfordian proponents).

I see none of that in the proud, whiny de Vere, who always thought he deserved more than he got.

I actually approached Anderson’s thesis with a willing mind, ready to be convinced…or at least entertained. I was neither. His technique is to draw comparisons between Oxford’s life and Shakespeare’s plays. The problem? Shakespeare is great because he is universal. We can all relate to his plays – there are probably numerous events in all of our lives with parallels in the Shakespearean canon. Besides, all the details in the book are just plain boring.

I wasn’t actively offended by the Oxfordian theory before reading this book. I am now.

Title: Dreams from My Father
Author: Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL)

I like Sen. Barack Obama. I watched his 2004 Democratic National Convention keynote address live on television, and jumped to my feet cheering when he finished. That speech was a thing of beauty. I’d vote for him for President (or Vice President, which is far more likely). Seriously, imagine a President who could not only read, but WRITE and SPEAK, too! What an amazing concept! But Obama tells a real lousy story – or at least he did in 1995, which is when he wrote this memoir.

This was a fine book, with writing that was very professional and polished. Obama is a thoughtful and polite companion. But he’s BORING. The purpose of this memoir is to chronicle one man’s attempt to reconcile his black and white heritage. Meh. I hate books like this. I have no problem with people getting “in touch with their roots”...I just don’t understand why they then have to tell everyone else about their wonderful journey! Personally, I don’t give a damn. Tell me what you’ve done.

Oh, Obama does spend a lot of time chronicling his early political activist days in Chicago. I can’t really talk about that part much because I can only read so much about “cheap coffee and donut” meetings before I want to hang myself from the nearest rickety ceiling fan. Being rather fond of life, I skipped most of this section.

Most disappointing, Obama didn’t talk at all about his days at Harvard Law School, where he became the first African America editor of the prestigious Harvard Law Review. That I was interested in. That’s something not everyone can do. That’s unique. That’s -

Eh. I’m bored. Moving on.

Title: Bartleby the Scrivener
Author: Herman Melville

So, you want to kill yourself. You have the means all prepared. The tub is filling with warm water, the hose is attached to the exhaust pipe, and the cup of hemlock is grasped in your trembling hand. But wait - something's stopping you. You don’t have quite the necessary resolve. There’s a little bird chirping happily in your heart, a dim light at the end of the dismal tunnel of your life, a silver lining to your cloud of doom and gloom. Maybe life isn't so bad after all...

Well, if you ever find yourself is such a situation, have no fear! Bartleby the Scrivener is here! Reading this novella of Melville’s should be enough to give even Shirley Temple the unflappable determination to end her own life.

This story is seriously one of the most depressing ones I’ve ever read. Bartleby, of course, is a scrivener. Well, what the hell’s a scrivener? Basically, he’s a drone who copied legal documents by hand before the days of typewriters and computers – a job dreary enough to make anyone gaze at that handy butcher knife longingly.

Well, one day at work, Bartleby simply refuses to do anymore copying. His boss insists, but he still refuses. The only thing he says in explanation? “I prefer not to.”

Recommended to me by a co-worker, I initially thought this was a wonderful premise for a story. I love the dark humor of Moby Dick, and I expected to find the same in Bartleby. I thought the whole story would basically be one giant F YOU! to society and bosses everywhere – you know, kind of like Office Space.

But I was wrong. Bartleby isn’t only not interested in copying anymore…he’s not interested in ANYTHING. His entire life simply shuts down slowly – and his fate is what you would expect to happen if you follow the phrase “I prefer not to” to its ultimate conclusion.

Yeah, depressing. Avoid at all costs.

posted by Elizabeth at 8:31 PM