Sunday, December 30, 2012

A Review of 2012

Another year has come and gone, so here's my Top 10 List (in no particular order) for the books read this year, along with a few other book-related bits of information.

11/22/1963 by Stephen King
A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin
Les Misérables by Victor Hugo
The Map of the Sky by Felix Palma
Boy's Life by Robert McCammon
Sacré Bleu by Christopher Moore
Krampus by Brom
The Rook by Daniel O'Malley
Live by Night by Dennis Lehane
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

The worst book I read this year was Life Expectancy by Dean Koontz

Number of books read this year - 52

Booksignings attended this year - Robert McCammon, Steve Berry - The Columbus Affair, Brandon Sanderson - The Emperor's Soul

Books I'm looking forward to that are coming in 2013:
Insane City by Dave Barry (1/13)
Fragments by Dan Wells (2/13)
NOS4A2 by Joe Hill (4/13)
A Serpent's Tooth by Craig Johnson (4/13)
The King's Deception by Steve Berry (5/13)
The Kill Room by Jeffery Deaver (6/13)
Lexicon by Max Barry (6/13)
The Eye of God by James Rollins (6/13)
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman (6/13)
Doctor Sleep by Stephen King (9/13)
You by Austin Grossman (??)

What are the best books you read this year?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Unholy Night

Unholy Night by Seth Grahame-Smith

I should start off by saying that I found both of Seth Grahame-Smith's previous books to be surprisingly well written. Before I read them I was expecting to enjoy them, but wasn't expecting them to be as intelligent and literary as they both were. When I mention Pride and Prejudice and Zombies or Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter to people who haven't read them, they tend to assume I'm talking about amateurish books written as some sort of literary prank. But they're far from that. Think I'm kidding? Read'em.

Unholy Night is one more example of why people should take Seth Grahame-Smith seriously as an author. He takes an idea or story that is generally well known, and then springboards off of it and ends up with a book that you simply have to read to appreciate. This time around it's the story of the three wise men of the nativity that are the genesis.

Balthazar is a thief with a grudge against the Roman Empire. After being caught and thrown into Herod's prison, where he meets up with two other prisoners, Balthazar pulls off a daring escape for the three. After they flee Jerusalem, they decide to hide out for the night in a stable in Bethlehem where the meet up with a young couple and their newborn child. Balthazar has no desire to get caught up in their lives, but the next day, as he and his two companions are trying to slip out of Bethlehem they're drawn back by the screams of the mothers whose babies are being killed by Herod's men. Balthazar decides to help the new family escape to Egypt, where they should be safe until the disease-ridden Herod finally dies.

Unholy Night is a great book. This time around Grahame-Smith doesn't rely on the writings of any other author for the frame of his story. This time there were only a couple of biblical verses at his disposal. But he is very successful in using them as the origins for a story that is unique, violent, and at the same time, respectful to the story that plays such an important role for so many peoples' beliefs.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Life Expectancy

Life Expectancy by Dean Koontz

I used to be a devout reader of Dean Koontz's books. The first couple that I read were Watchers and Intensity and I really enjoyed both. In fact, Intensity, is probably the most intense book I've ever read. Go figure, huh? I then went on and read several more of his books, but none of them ever reached the bar set by those first two. In fact, as time went on, I began to lose interest in reading his books and would only occasionally pick one up off the discount rack at the bookstore to give it a try. A few years ago I read The Taking, which was horrible and led me to stop buying his books altogether. But I still had this one left on the bookshelf which I inexplicably felt compelled to eventually read.

Life Expectancy was awful. It confirmed for me the wisdom in not buying or reading any more of Koontz's books. The plot was ridiculous and the dialogue was painful. As I suffered through it, the dialogue repeatedly reminded me of the solitary lifestyle I think most authors must live. I would imagine some of them don't get out much and interact with other human beings. I'm almost positive now that Koontz hasn't left his home in over a decade and doesn't own a phone or a television. No one talks the way he made his characters talk in this one.

It's about a man named Jimmy Tock, whose grandfather, on the day Jimmy was born and he himself died, predicted five dark dates in his grandson's life. As Jimmy goes through his life, and those dates approach one by one, sure enough something terrible happens. Here's the kicker, all those dates involve a homicidal, maniacal clown. Eat your heart out Dickens, that's true literary brilliance.

Inexplicably, the majority of the Amazon reviews of this one give it five stars. I don't know whether it's me or everyone else that's wrong, but I'm leaning toward it being everyone else.

★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Krampus the Yule Lord

Krampus the Yule Lord by Brom

I've been looking forward to this holiday season for awhile now--not because I love the extra traffic anytime I get anywhere near a shopping mall, or because I can't hear "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" enough times during these five weeks, but because I've been holding off reading a couple holiday-themed books until the season arrived. Krampus is the first of the two.

It's the fourth book written by renowned fantasy artist Brom, who I came across a few years ago when his first book Plucker came out, a story I'd describe as "Toy Story meets Guillermo del Toro." It was so unique and imaginative that I later read his next two books as they came out, including the fantastic The Child Thief, an adult retelling of the story of Peter Pan who was not as innocent as Walt Disney would have you believe.

Krampus is not for everyone. My children will not be reading it for many years to come, that is, if they choose to read it at all. After all, they might not grow up with the same literary tastes their father has. But one can hope. That being said, I enjoyed the book immensely.

Krampus is a character from European folklore whom parents would warn their children about around Christmas time--if children were good, they were told that Santa would come and leave presents, if they were bad, Krampus would come instead and put them in his sack and beat them. He's the son of the Norse god Loki, and in Brom's tale, has been imprisoned for the last 500 years because of what he perceives as Santa Clause's betrayal so long ago. Now he's managed to escape and plans to exact his revenge on His Jolliness.

Jesse Walker is a down-on-his-luck estranged father and husband who had aspirations of one day becoming a successful songwriter. While sitting in his truck Christmas Eve, contemplating taking his own life, Jesse witnesses something that will significantly alter the course of his life--Santa Clause being chased and attacked by seven devilish figures. Jesse watches as Santa makes it to his sleigh and begins to take off as several of his pursuers jump on board. As the sleigh begins to climb, he hears screams and cries and then sees a sack fall and land nearby. That sack, which Jesse finds to possess magical powers, drags Jesse into the war that has been going on for centuries, a war between the man whose image appears at every turn each December, and the one who December 25th originally belonged to, the Lord of Yule.

Krampus is really a fantastic story. Brom takes his in-your-face writing style and portrays a character that on one page is ruthless and terrible, and on the next, sympathetic and endearing. He successfully incorporates Norse legends along with the origins of the Christmas tree and other customs now so intrinsically tied to Christmas into a highly entertaining and surprisingly uplifting story.

At times, the language can be rough, but I thoroughly enjoyed the book.

Here's a small taste from the prologue:

Santa Clause, my dear old friend, you are a thief, a traiter, a slanderer, a murderer, a liar, but worst of all you are a mockery of everything for which I stood.

You have sung your last ho, ho, ho, for I am coming for your head. For Odin, Loki, and all the fallen gods, for your treachery, for chaining me in this pit for five hundred years. But most of all I am coming to take back what is mine, to take back Yuletide. And with my foot upon your throat. I shall speak your name, your true name, and with death staring back at you, you will no longer be able to hide from your dark deeds, from the faces of all those you betrayed.

I, Krampus, Lord of Yule, son of Hel, bloodline of the great Loki, swear to cut your lying tongue from your mouth, your theiving hands from your wrists, and your jolly head from your neck.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆