Sunday, April 10, 2011

#14 A Touch of Dead by Charlaine Harris

A Touch of Dead contains 5 Sookie Stackhouse short stories and is another fun and quick read.  I love the Sookie Stackhouse mysteries and while I await the next one I thought that I should catch up a bit.  For those that don't know about the series, Sookie Stackhouse is a telepath waitress living in northern Louisiana who gets involved in all kinds of supernatural mischief, usually involving vampires or weres.  These stories are set in between the other books, but it is best to read them after finishing at least book 9.  

In "Fairy Dust" Sookie is visited by her fairy friend Claudine, whose sister Claudette has just been murdered.  Claudine and her brother Claude ask Sookie to help them solve her murder.  In "Dracula Night" Sookie is invited by Eric to Fangtasia for a party in honor of Dracula's birthday, whom Eric is convinced will make an appearance.  In "One Word Answer"  Sookie is informed of her cousin Hadley's death and must fulfill her duties as executor of Hadley's estate.  In "Lucky" Sookie and Amelia are visited by a local insurance agent who is worried that someone is trying to sabotage his business.  Together they try to solve the mystery will Sookie's telepathy and Amelia's witchcraft.  The final story, "Gift Wrap"  is takes place on Christmas Eve, with Sookie all by herself.  She finds a wounded werewolf on her property, helps him recover, and tries to keep him safe.

I enjoyed each story but I was appalled that Eric was only featured in one.  It was nice to get more information about Claudine and Claude, as well as Hadley's murder.  My favorite story out of this set was "Gift Wrap" because it just sums up Sookie so well.  I definitely recommend this to anyone that already enjoys these mysteries because it is a nice addition to the books.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

#13 Fractured Fairy Tales by A.J. Jacobs

I have already professed my love for Rocky and Bullwinkle.  Their show was hilarious and probably the reason that my siblings and I enjoy bad puns.  So when I noticed this book on my sister's shelf the other day I couldn't resist.  As soon as I saw the cover I could hear the opening music and see the little fairy kick the giant.  Fractured Fairy Tales was my favorite part of the Rocky and Bullwinkle show and I needed to be cheered up a little.

There really isn't much to say about the book.  For anyone unfamiliar with the show, Fractured Fairy Tales were short cartoons that retold children's stories and myths with irony and puns.  Those glorious puns.  There are 25 stories included in it and most, if not all of them, are from the show.  I can't be certain that they all were because I have not seen every episode, but even if they aren't they have the same spirit and humor.  This book takes an hour at the most to read and is a nice diversion from the annoyances of real life.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

#12 Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell

So Sarah Vowell is a bit morbid, and it is highly entertaining.  In this book, Vowell goes all over the country to sites involved in the assassinations of Presidents Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley.  She is obsessed with the US and its history, it's like a replacement to religion, and her insightful and witty take on our history makes for a really fun book about some really horrible events.

A good portion of the book is devoted to the Lincoln assassination, but this is hardly surprising.  Lincoln contributed more to this country than either Garfield or McKinley and his death has been studied more.  She talks about the facts and the conspiracies surrounding his death, most notably about Dr. Mudd, who fixed Booth's leg.  All of it was very interesting but I found myself enjoying the sections on Garfield and McKinley the most, probably because they aren't discussed as much in history books.

Garfield really didn't get a chance to do anything, his presidency lasted less than a year and more people followed his slow death than anything he did while in office.  His assassin, Charles Guiteau, was certifiable and went to the rope truly believing that god would punish those that didn't appreciate what he did for them.  His trial was ridiculous and apparently he couldn't even get laid in a free love community (Oneida, the people that now bring us quality silverware).

Vowell compares McKinley often to George W. Bush, which makes him much less sympathetic.  Of course this was the president that got us into the Spanish American war and took over Puerto Rico, Guam, the Philippines, and Hawaii, trying to civilize them, so I'm not sure if there can be any sympathy for him.  His assassination by anarchist Leon Czolgosz leads to a lot less colorful trial than Guiteau's, because while both were insane, Czolgosz at least had the decency to be serious about his actions.

The book is more than just history, all though that's enough for me.  Vowell puts in anecdotes about her assassination pilgrimage and is so clearly excited about the subject that it is a pleasure to read.  There are so many connections made to people that I wouldn't have even thought of when researching this material.  All the while, Vowell keeps things light and funny in way that few people can.

#11 The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan

The Red Pyramid is another of Rick Riordan's young adult adventure stories, much like Percy Jackson and the Olympians, but with ancient Egyptian lore instead of Greek.  I enjoyed the book and plowed through it pretty quick, although I didn't think it wasn't as much fun as Percy Jackson.  But this is probably just because I enjoy Greek mythology more.  

The book is narrated by Carter and Sadie Kane, siblings that have been kept almost completely separated since the death of their mother six years earlier.  Carter travels around the world with his famous Egyptologist dad, Julius, while Sadie lives in England with her mother's parents after a nasty custody dispute.  While visiting Sadie on Christmas day, Julius brings the kids to the British Museum and proceeds to blow up the Rosetta Stone.  The explosion releases five Egyptian gods, one of whom, Set, is intent on destroying the world.  Their father is imprisoned by Set, so Carter and Sadie are whisked off by their uncle Amos and learn that not only are the ancient gods real, but that their family is from a long line of magicians that are supposed to keep the gods in check.  The siblings are thrust into the magical world and must use their newfound powers to stop Set and save the world.

Admittedly this book is set up almost identical to Percy Jackson, but I don't mind a repetitive formula if it's entertaining.  Roirdan again packs the story full of ancient mythology, so much so that I miss references until I reread the old stories.  He also alludes to Percy Jackson a bit-- they can't go to Manhattan because of other forces.  He definitely keeps things interesting and fun, so my only real problem was Sadie.  She annoyed me, but then I was always annoyed by 12 year old girls, even when I was one.  Anyways, if you enjoyed Percy Jackson or are just looking for an interesting and quick read, this book is worth checking out.