Friday, February 24, 2012


Raylan by Elmore Leonard

I usually like to wait a few months in between reading books by the same author. But I was looking forward to reading Raylan too much to hold to that rule this time. I've mentioned it before, but I'm a big fan of the FX series Justified which is based on a short story by Leonard which introduced the character of Raylan Givens, the Stetson-wearing U.S. Marshall who means what he says. If he tells you he's going to shoot you on the count of ten, your best bet is to try to shoot him at nine.

To be honest, having read the previous books featuring Givens, I kind of preferred Timothy Olyphant's version of the character over Leonard's. But it seems like Leonard took some inspiration from Olyphant's portrayal when writing Raylan and I enjoyed it more than its predecessors.

There's an urban legend used to deter people from using illegal drugs about a person who wakes up one day from drug-induced unconsciousness only to discover that they're missing a kidney. Well, someone in Harlan County Kentucky has found inspiration from that legend and has quickly been able to make tens of thousands of dollars. Raylan's pretty sure he knows who's behind it and quickly finds himself in over his head.

I read an interview with Leonard where he discussed his feelings and involvement with Justified. He said he loved what the creators of the show had done with his characters and that he regularly provides ideas for the show. That involvement is apparent with Raylan. The kidney-stealing plot line and others in the book have also been plot lines in the series, which ultimately increased my enjoyment in the book. In fact last night when I was watching the show, the dialogue for a brief moment matched verbatim what I had read in the book that day.

This has turned out to be more a review of the series than the book. So I'll end by saying, if you like Justified, you'll enjoy Raylan. If you don't watch Justified, start . . . and then read Raylan.

★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


Inheritance by Christopher Paolini

In 2002, at the age of 19, Christopher Paolini burst onto the scene with his hugely popular book Eragon. The book was the first in what was supposed to be a trilogy known as The Inheritance Cycle, but as I'm starting to figure out the more fantasy series I read, a lot of fantasy authors can't count. Inheritance is the fourth and final book in a series that I think got better with each book.

Despite the popularity and success of Eragon, I really didn't think it was that great of a book. I fell asleep halfway through trying to watch the video of the movie based on it and haven't had any desire to try again. But to the author's credit, he was only a teenager when he wrote it. By the time I turned the same age as Paolini was when he published his first book, my only vocational accomplishments were bagging groceries, working at a video store, and digging trenches.

So I cut him some slack and tried the second book when it came out. Eldest was noticeably better than Eragon and the pattern continued till the end; each book getting noticeably better than its predecessor. Inheritance was good enough that it had me up reading late into the night. Something I usually don't do.

With Inheritance Paolini concludes his story about the Rider Eragon and the dragon Saphira who have been training in the arts of spellcasting and warfare in hopes that when the day finally comes, and they have the opportunity to kill the evil magician and ruler Galbatorix, that they'll succeed.

The Inheritance Cycle isn't in the same class as Tolkien, Martin, Rothfuss, Sanderson or the other fantasy authors I enjoy reading. But now that it's complete, I can say that I enjoyed reading it. I'm interested to see what Paolini will write next.

★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Night Eternal

The Night Eternal by Guillermo del Toro & Chuck Hogan

With The Night Eternal Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan bring their vampire trilogy to a satisfying close. It began with The Strain which was a decent book in my opinion. A little flawed, but an intriguing beginning to their story. Then with The Fall the two corrected what needed to be fixed and got things really moving along. The Night Eternal was my favorite book of the three.

Two years have passed since the events of The Fall. The world is a much different place now. Nuclear winter has settled in as the master vampire used nuclear weapons to bring about nearly continual darkness across the planet. Now sunlight is only able to break through for two hours a day. The rest of the time, the vampires roam unimpeded.

The human population has gone through a mass extinction. The vampires, having first killed off all of the world leaders along with all the most powerful and brightest people, have now segregated the remaining population. The fortunate ones, the ones who possess the vampires' preferred blood type, have been interred in camps where they're fed well and live in relative comfort as they're either bled or bred to ensure the vampires' food supply. The less fortunate ones have either been forced into a life of servitude and compliance with the vampires, or they were destroyed. Only small pockets of resistance remain.

One of these pockets includes Eph, Nora, Fet, and Gus. Dr. Eph Goodweather's wife was turned by the master vampire and she later returned to kidnap Eph's son Zachary whom the Master has significant plans for. It's Eph's search for his son that nearly destroyed Eph but that now keeps him going. Eph's group is the only group remaining that has the ability to destroy the Master and bring about an end to the nightmare that's taken over the earth, but by doing so, he may have to destroy his son as well? That's a decision Eph might not be strong enough to make.

With the trilogy complete I can now wholeheartedly recommend it. The first book started off really strong but then it got a little frustrating as characters started doing things that drove me crazy. The series rebounded with the second book and then finished strong with this conclusion. My understanding is that Guillermo del Toro originally wrote this story hoping it would be a TV series. Unfortunately is wasn't to be. But based on the content, I don't think it would have aired on any channel that I get anyway.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Thursday, February 2, 2012


Lunatics by Dave Barry & Alan Zweibel

If a novel has Dave Barry's name associated with it, I'm going to read it. Both of his previous novels written for adults (Big Trouble & Risky Business) were hilarious. The Peter Pan prequels he's been coauthoring with Ridley Pearson for young adults are good too, but they're not the kind of laugh-out-loud funny books that cause people to move away from me while I'm reading them on the train into work that his others were. Pearson is kind of like Ritalin for Barry and my preference is to read Barry uncontrolled.

Lunatics was the first I had heard of Alan Zweibel and he made quite a first impression. If Pearson is Barry's Ritalin, I'd describe Zweibel as NoDoze with a Red Bull chaser. The pace of the book is fast, it never lets up, and it goes all over the place.

The book is about two men; Philip Horkman, a mild-mannered owner of a pet shop called The Wine Store (just go with it) and Jeffery Peckerman, a hot-headed, foul-mouthed forensic plumber (again, just go with it.) Their paths cross one day when Philip, a volunteer referee for a girl's recreational soccer league, calls off sides on Jeffery's daughter at a pivotal point in the game. From that moment on, the two can't seem to unseparate their paths and go back to their normal lives.

The story that follows made me laugh out loud regularly. If I wasn't laughing, I had a big grin on my face. I'm sure people around me when I was reading thought I was challenged in some way. Philip and Jeffery find themselves accused of masterminding a terrorist attack, hijacking a clothing-optional cruise ship, leading a revolution in Cuba, bringing down Somalian pirates, ushering in long-lasting peace in the Middle East, and then on to China.

I'm not going to try to pass this off as high-brow literature. This will not be an Oprah Book Club Selection. What it is is an hilarious book that's for those looking for an enjoyable time, and who aren't self-conscious about making a scene while reading.

★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆