Posts Tagged ‘book reviews’

Home Improvement: Undead Edition edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni Kelner – review

June 12, 2012

Part of the reason I picked up Home Improvement: Undead Edition (HIUE) is that I’ve just been on a bit of a horror kick lately. This has mostly manifested itself in movies, usually bad ones. Seeing a new horror book that wasn’t eight hundred pages long piqued my interest. Also, I’ve never read anything by anyone (including Charlaine Harris) in this book , so I saw it as an opportunity to stretch my wings a bit and read some new authors while also getting my horror joneses.

To be sure, this is a different sort of horror than what I’m used to. I grew up a huge Stephen King fan (though, oddly enough, that started with the very non-horror title The Eyes of the Dragon), tried some Peter Straub, really like Phil Rickman (though, also perhaps oddly, none of the Merrily Watkins stuff) and have recently loved the Del Toro/Hogan vampire trilogy. In other words, a lot of wordy, violent, sexy, graphic stuff. Part of me wants to refer to the stuff in HIUE as horror lite, but that sounds derogatory. Really, it’s just a different sort of horror, something more fun, more playful, dealing with the tropes of the genre but skirting – for the most part – a lot of the nastier bits.

I have to admit, I did enjoy the Sookie Stackhouse story by Harris. It moved quick, with the assured pacing and development of an author who knows her characters and knows her materials. For a collection of stories focusing on horror and house repairs, I could best call it workmanlike, with the smooth touches of a finish carpenter. Being so unfamiliar with this type of horror, and seeing the row upon row of Charlaine Harris titles on the shelf, this seemed like a good way of introducing myself to the work to see if I would be interested in any of her other stuff. I’ll probably at least give some more of them a look now.

While all of the stories were enjoyable reads, a few stood out as personal favorites. The first was Wizard Home Security  by Victor Gischler. The idea of wizards needing to invest in home security systems, tailored to their unique requirements, was enjoyable. the protagonist isn’t entirely likeable, but he straddles that gap of being too unlikeable to like and being just unlikeable enough to be loved.  He’s curmudgeonly and cheap, and is what really drives the story from being just another story in an anthology to something you’d make a special trip to get a reading of.

Blood on the Wall by Heather Graham is a genre piece within a genre collection. While a bit of it isn’t as surprising as it may have intended to be, I got into the 1940-esqe hardboiled noirness of it. It’s a good romp through the cemetery.

Rick the Brave by Stacia Kane stood out because of its approach. There is nothing special about the protagonist, Rick.  Without going into overly cumbersome details, Kane lets us in on a world where the dead have broken through, and they’re mad as hell, prompting a rise of a new church that apparently led the way in fighting back the legions of the noncorporeal, and now works to keep them at bay. And all of that is just minor back story that Kane covers quickly and efficiently in relating her tale of Rick, the guy who just wants to earn a few bucks on the side and gets roped into fighting some pissed of spirits before helping an illegal witch (she may or may not be licensed by the church) close a portal the ghosts had been using to leak into our world.

Alright, quicky review is done. If you’re a Charlaine Harris, this is almost definitely up your alley. If you’re a horror fan and just looking for something a bit different and lighter, I don’t think you can go wrong here. Here is the Barnes and Noble link for it, if you’re interested. At the very least, get it out of the library and give it a read. It’s a good way of meeting several new authors.

The End of Swag!

December 2, 2011

I was going to just post a response on the LA Times blog thing, but apparently I have to be a member of facebook to sign into the LA Times to comment. Since I’m not a member of facebook, and don’t plan to be unless the necessity for networking makes it a must, I figured I’d haul my response over here to my own blog. Carolyn Kellogg has a blog up at the LA Times about a book publisher bringing the thunder on book bloggers.  The publisher was William Morrow, and they are essentially telling book bloggers that they’re no longer going to ship a crap ton of free books to them to review, that they’ll get a list of books they can review and that they can review three, and that it would be appreciated if the reviewer would sorta, you know, get the review up within a month or so of the book being published. Apparently, this has not gone over so well, and Ms. Kellogg links to a few bloggers all up in arms over it.

Now, I don’t get anything from anybody. If I review a book,  I’ve either bought it, taken it out of the library, or stolen it from my girlfriend. What’s more, I don’t see how William Morrow is making any unseemly demands with this, other than an implied feeling that they are looking at bloggers as extensions of their marketing department rather than as critics. If they want us to work as extensions of their marketing department, put us on their payroll, lord knows I could use the extra income.  However, their limiting bloggers on the books they want to review and asking them to do it in a timely fashion seems more than fair. If they publish a new mystery novel, it’s better to have as many people talking about it as possible when it’s actually published, and not three months later. After all, you’re getting the book for nothing. While they may not treat the Times this way, face it, most of us don’t have the exposure or power of a good review in the NYT.

Truth is, I don’t think any publisher would be doing this if they didn’t think they’d be saving/making money on it in the long run. William Morrow might have just looked at this and figured that the money they shell out in sending out gobs of freebies to people who might not even bother reading the damn things is a waste.  Maybe whoever compiles internal research for them figured they benefited more just from positive reviews on Amazon than any reviews from blogs. Or maybe their sales just haven’t changed a whole helluva lot since before book blogging took off to now.

On a personal level, I don’t see why someone just wouldn’t go to the library, take out whatever book they want, review whatever book they please, however they please. It’s still free, it doesn’t kill your shelf space, and you don’t have to feel like you’re having to give a good review to this or that, or any review at all.  Your independence is your power.

Where Are The Reviews?

December 2, 2009

for awhile small book reviews were the bread and butter of this blog. I’ve read a lot in my life, I still read a lot (see: unemployed), and I’ve found that I remember the books better if I just sit down and write a little review about them that I also hope other people find mildly helpful in deciding if they want to give the book a shot, too.

So where have they went?

Honestly, I just haven’t had time to write them up. For being what they are, they are still time consuming little buggers. From finding/inserting the links/pics to the simple act of writing the things, they take up a bit of time. And it’s time I haven’t had. Every other weekend (sometimes it feels like quite a bit more than that) I’m heading to Michigan. There’s the g/f. There’s the kid. There’s the job hunt (soon to become MFA program application fill-out time). There’s the day to day running of the apartment that has fallen to me by default of me being the unemployed one. Plus there is the writing of my own that I constantly put off and constantly berate myself for not getting done.

Also, the technology/publishing stuff I’ve been posting lately is stuff I find really interesting. Launching an on-line lit mag is something that I’ve kicked around for literally five years now and will likely never get around to actually doing. Meanwhile, I’ve also nurtured a hankering for tablet PCs and wouldn’t mind the ability to simply download a new novel once in awhile. And I’m interested in what can be done with the novel and programming language, despite not having a bloody clue about programming language myself. It’s a charge I find myself interested in leading but find myself woefully without a horse to charge with.

But I do hope to start getting some more reviews up again. In the meantime, I’ll try to keep posting what I post.