Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Book Review: The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

My rating: 3/5

From the back of the CD case: "After death only those dogs who are ready may return to the earth as men. Enzo senses that he is close, but for now his thoughts are consumed by the family he is very much a part of. His master Denny has suffered the loss of his wife and has had to fight her parents for custody of his daughter. Even so, Denny maintains his dream of succeeding as a race-car driver. Life, however, is often strewn with the twisted wreckage that oftentimes mars the speedway."

While this audiobook had it's funny moments, its insightful moments, and its heart-wrenching moments, and the narrator, Christopher Evan Welch, did a pretty good job, I never did quite get into it.  Between the brow-beating about manifesting your destiny, constant talk of auto racing (which I admit I'm not into), and never quite getting the full story (why was Eve's dad obsessed with getting custody of Zoe?), it just couldn't hold my attention very well.  I did get through it, but I think if I'd been reading the book, instead of listening to the CDs while I did other things in my car and around the house, I wouldn't have finished it.

If you're a dog lover and a race car lover, then this may be the perfect book for you.  If not, I'd probably recommend skipping it.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Book Review: Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion

My rating: 5/5

"We grunt and groan, we shrug and nod, and sometimes a few words slip out. It's not that different from before. But it does make me sad that we've forgotten our names. Out of everything, this seems to me the most tragic. I miss my own and I mourn for everyone else's, because I'd like to love them, but I don't know who they are."

From Amazon:
"R is a young man with an existential crisis--he is a zombie. He shuffles through an America destroyed by war, social collapse, and the mindless hunger of his undead comrades, but he craves something more than blood and brains. He can speak just a few grunted syllables, but his inner life is deep, full of wonder and longing. He has no memories, no identity, and no pulse, but he has dreams.

"After experiencing a teenage boy's memories while consuming his brain, R makes an unexpected choice that begins a tense, awkward, and strangely sweet relationship with the victim's human girlfriend. Julie is a blast of color in the otherwise dreary and gray landscape that surrounds R. His decision to protect her will transform not only R, but his fellow Dead, and perhaps their whole lifeless world."

The narration in this book is perfectly told by "R," a zombie who can't remember the rest of his name. In fact the entire book is good in every aspect and has become book #2 (#1 being Room by Emma Donoghue) from my 2011 reading that I want to own just to have on the bookshelf.  It's a great and exciting story, every character is fantastically three-dimensional, the writing is fantastic, and it's both hilarious and meaningful all at the same time.  I would even compare the author's writing to Douglas Adams' (though not quite as whimsical), and I don't do that lightly.

But on top of all this, it's also a poignant look into what it means to be alive, what it means to be dead, and what it means to have hope.  Though there's an obvious scientific answer to "living" or "dead," it's much more of a quandary when the dead come back to eat you... and when the dead start making choices and communicating their thoughts.  And there's also the question of whether you're truly living while you're still alive, or if you've already let your soul die long before the body perishes. 

I can't recommend this book enough, though I would caution that it's probably appropriate for high school and above.  It's a little gory (though not overly), has drug and alcohol use, and contains some swearing... though mostly from the living, as the vocabulary of the dead is limited.

And it's already being made into a movie!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Book Review: Dead Witch Walking by Kim Harrison

My rating: 3.75/5

From Amazon: "The underground population of witches, vampires, werewolves—creatures of dreams and nightmares—has lived beside humans for centuries, hiding their powers. But after a genetically engineered virus wipes out a large part of humanity, many of the 'Inderlanders' reveal themselves, changing everything.

"Rachel Morgan, witch and bounty hunter with the Inderland Runner Services, is one of the best at apprehending supernatural lawbreakers throughout Cincinnati, but when it comes to following the rules, she falls desperately short. Determined to buck the system, she quits and takes off on the run with an I.S. contract on her head and is reluctantly forced to team up with Ivy, Inderland's best runner . . . and a living vampire. But this witch is way out of her league, and to clear her name, Rachel must evade shape-changing assassins, outwit a powerful businessman/crime lord, and survive a vicious underground fight-to-the-death . . . not to mention her own roommate."

The writing in this book is, for the most part, solid and good, and I enjoyed reading it.  I especially loved Rachel's temperamental pixie co-worker, Jenks, and his awesome family (made up of his wife and bazillion kids).  The background is interesting too; it's almost an alternate history, just with supernatural creatures.  But at the same time, I'm still not entirely sure about a lot of things that may be cleared up in future books in the series (The Hollows), such as why the I.S. can have people killed for breaking their contracts, what's up with Ivy (the vampire roommate), what happened to Rachel's dad, what's up with Keasley (the witch across the street), what's up with Nick (just a human...?), etc., etc.  And leaving so many loose ends was part of why I couldn't quite rate the book a 4.  The plot meandered a bit too, in that there were too many problems to deal with all at once, and I'm not sure that much of anything was fixed or solved by the end.  I even caught myself forgetting a few times which problem the main characters were working on at that point. 

However!  I still had trouble putting the book down, which is always a good sign, and I have it on good authority that the other books in the series are even better than this one.  With that, I would definitely recommend this book to anyone looking for an entertaining paranormal urban fantasy series. 

(You can also read the first chapter of the book on Kim Harrison's site for free here: http://www.kimharrison.net/BookPages/DWW/DWW.html)