Friday, December 31, 2010

"I'm Dreaming Of A Black Christmas" by Lewis Black

Usually New Years is the time of the year that we associate with personal reflection, but lucky for us Lewis Black doesn't wait until a specially sanctioned holiday to bitch, gripe, moan, and ultimately come to a sober and reasoned understanding (full of sound and fury) about just what the Hell is going on.  I'm Dreaming of a Black Christmas proves this, and it proves it with style and substance in a neat and tidy 192 page package.  There is no ribbon, there is no bow, there isn't even wrapping paper to cover this gift.  Because Lewis Black saves all of his time and energy for his thought processes, and delivers us the gift we all could probably used at the end of this 2010 we've all had...the gift of rage.

I'm Dreaming of a Black Christmas gives us not only Lewis Black's feelings on the holiday (less greed for ourselves, more charity to others) but a chronicle of his usual Christmas routine, as well as a lot of self reflection and self analyzing anecdotes that tie into his usual stops and actions during the Holiday Season.  I would even dare say that Black's writing shows us more of his personal psyche than any of his stand up bits ever have.  (Note: I have not read either Nothing's Sacred or Me of Little Faith, so I'm not sure how much of a better, more comprehensive job they've done encapsulating his life, but after this book I surely will find out.)  Married young, Lewis thought he was having a child with his wife...until it turned out she was carrying someone else's little bundle of joy.  For him though, it was a bundle that would explode into divorce, and a lifelong aversion to commitment and fatherhood.  However adverse he is though, he enjoys the fact that through his friends and their families, he has a brief moment where he can feel a party to the life he wished he could have had, if only he'd met the right girl.  It is with that penultimate realization that Black realizes the true joy of Christmas, which is gathering around those you love and those you care about, if only to enjoy a few hours of uninterrupted, unspoiled joy and love.  (Also, as a bonus section, Black recounts his USO tour with Robin Williams, Kid Rock, and Lance Armstrong.  Trust me, it's as good as it sounds.)

Lewis Black is the perfect example of the dichotomy people should embody:  through the love of family and friends, we enrich ourselves; but we must also enrich ourselves by scrutinizing things and demanding more than we are usually given by the world.  We have to be pickier, but more generous; more compassionate, but much more abrasive; a little kinder,  but a little crueler at the same time.  Ultimately, we must be peaceful people, but allow ourselves to fight the right battles for the right things and stop being the sheep we choose to be on a day in/day out basis.  Of course, I'm reading much more into the serious angle of the book and completely underselling its humorous elements.  Yes, Lewis Black rants in his trademark dark style.  Yes, he makes points and laughs at certain figures in our lives that we take as punching bags.  Most importantly, he makes us laugh in a way that inspires us to be better.  Not because we can, but because we must.

As the last book I've read in 2010, I can easily recommend Lewis Black as a cap off to 2010, as well as the perfect way to start 2011.  You're going to be looking back on the recently passed Holiday Season anyway, you may as well do it with the Host of Christmas Fury.  Happy New Year, everyone!  Good reading to you all!

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Twelve Days of Christmas - Library Edition

Well folks, it's Christmas time again.  As such, it's a perfect time to give (or receive) books that'll help you kill some time, should you ever be snowed in.  With that in mind, here's 12 books that you should be requesting from your local Library, or purchasing on  (*hint hint* Use the links I've provided in my Bookish Kind reviews to order your friends and family some quality reading material, and kick me back some money in the process.)

On the first day of Christmas, my Librarian gave to me... A vampire plague to wipe out NYC

On the second day of Christmas, my Librarian gave to me...2 Gentlemen of Lebowski

On the third day of Christmas, my Librarian gave to me... 3 Red Lobster glasses

On the fourth day of Christmas, my Librarian gave to me... 4 Spears of Destiny

On the fifth day of Christmas, my Librarian gave to me... 5 Brakebills Students

On the sixth day of Christmas, my Librarian gave to me... 6 Secret Successes

On the seventh day of Christmas, my Librarian gave to me... 7 radioactive golden ingots

On the eighth day of Christmas, my Librarian gave to me... 8 fearful patients

On the ninth day of Christmas, my Librarian gave to me... 9 nymphos clawing

On the tenth day of Christmas, my Librarian gave to me... 10 Bennett Children

On the eleventh day of Christmas, my Librarian gave to me... 11 Vamps for Lincoln

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my Librarian gave to me... 12 Katherines dumping

That said, Merry Christmas to all, and to all turn the page.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

"Toys" by James Patterson & Neil McMahon

Full Disclosure: I was given this advanced review copy by Hachette Book Group.  I wasn't paid, unless you call giving me a free book paid.  I would like to thank Brad Parsons over at Hachette for providing me with this and two other Pattersons that will be reviewed in the near future.

This is not going to be a happy review, nor is this going to be one that I think will turn out all that positive.  Which saddens me because I love James Patterson's writing, and find him genuinely (and consistently) entertaining.  His detective novels are aces, and I'm eager to dig into his Maximum Ride series and some of his other stand alone works that span other genres.  The man has talent, he's a personable figure, and he's a stitch on Castle.  All of this ass kissing has a purpose kids, I promise you.  It's to soften the blow I'm about to partially strike against a favorite author of mine.  I'm mostly going to roast the other guy though, because I KNOW in my heart and mind that James Patterson couldn't deliver a book as disappointing, as derivative, and as weak tea as Toys on his own.  Someone else had to have frakked it up.  And that someone is Neil McMahon.

Toys takes us to the far flung future of 2061 where people are basically separated into two castes: Humans and Elites. Humans are just like you and me, born after a nine month incubation period, normal abilities and such.  Elites, however, are born after two years in an artificial womb and endowed with super strength, speed and mental abilities.  Basically, it's Gattica on steroids.  One such Elite, Hays Baker, is our protagonist who, (MILD SPOILER ALERT) as it turns out, is a Human cut to look like an Elite.  This "betrayal" busts him down from top cop at the Agency of Change to fugitive on the loose.  As he goes on a journey to clear his name and stop the Elites from killing himself and every human on the planet, he cuts through swaths of Sci Fi cliches, action sequences, and pre fabricated twists that make this book seem more Human than Elite in its own right.

This book may as well have been titled "Humans Are People Too", because we see Hays go through the "Disgraced Hero" story arc that some of you may have heard of before.  Ok, you DEFINITELY have heard this story before.  As a matter of fact, there's one such story that this whole book seems to recall in my own Human brain.  This little film/short story you may have heard of called...Minority Report.  Yes, they rip off that story, as well as Total Recall in this book; which is meta-humorous because they mention Philip K. Dick's name in the story, as if to absolve themselves of cribbing his past works.  (While we're at it, parts of this book has hints of A.I. (creepy kid dolls) and Children of Men (there's a sequence involving British hooligans and Molotov cocktails chasing a car) thrown into it as well.)

As if that weren't bad enough, the writing is littered with too many "Is that what they were called?" or "That was from back then, wasn't it?" references.  The constant recall of our modern times in this futuristic tome do not ground the story in legitimacy, but show us just how far fetched it really is.  They didn't look to the future for inspiration, they just took a couple tropes of future life (haves vs. have nots, over population and global warming, Fascist utopia on the decline) and they grafted modern faces onto them.  Basically, if they were to constantly refer to the the Converse sneaker scene from I, Robot throughout the whole picture, it would be similar to this book.  And be warned, there is some clumsy, teenage written smut in this book.  I enjoy literary sex as much as the next person, but there's a reason you don't read about that much sex outside of Harlequin's "distinguished"'s hard to write a sex scene without it being cringe worthy in its description.

I love, love, LOVE Patterson's work in the Cross and Bennett series; and I have several other collaborations of his on my shelves waiting to be read.  The key to picking the right collaboration is to pick the right collaborating author.  Patterson works well with Andrew Gross (Read "The Jester" if you haven't already!) and Patterson works well with Michael Ledwidge (I'm dying to read "Tick Tock").  But ultimately, Patterson works best on his own.  It's sad to say it, since I don't know much about the man's writing, but Neil McMahon is only further proof of that very point.

Get Toys from the library if you have to, simply because it feels like the Third Act picks up and the ending leaves it open for a franchise (which felt like equal parts blessing and curse), but the Third Act doesn't make up for the lame First Act and the weak Second Act.  I guess my thinking is too Human and not Elite enough to "get" this book, but if that's the case then Human I am, and Human I will be.

Friday, November 26, 2010

"My Year of Flops" by Nathan Rabin

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the fine folks at Scribner, particularly my Publicity point of contact Brian Belfiglio. I'm not getting paid for this, I just do it out of the enjoyment of reading.

Consider for a moment the art of movie making.  A writer had to dream up a story, a director had to dream up a way to tell it, and a studio had to dream up the possibility of said end result even being marketable to greenlight its production.  Up to this point, there are many careers on the line, reputations at stake, and of course the collective dreams of the three branches of film production.  So naturally, it feels like a nightmare when the public, the critics, even test audiences you bribed with pizza and a signed photo of Alec Baldwin grind their collective boot-heels on everyone's dreams and turn them into cinematic cannon fodder.  Some films (Gigli, Howard the Duck, and Battlefield Earth) deserve it, others ( Joe Versus the Volcano, Heaven's Gate, Ishtar) don't, and others still (The Rocketeer) shouldn't even be compiled in a list of "flops".  Though no matter what level of Flop Hell they belong on, there's one man who's brave enough to take them all on and give them the second opinion they so desperately needed...Nathan Rabin of The Onion A.V. Club.  This is his charge.  This is his ballpark.  This is his destiny.  This is "My Year of Flops: The A.V. Club Presents One Man's Journey Deep into the Heart of Cinematic Failure."

For the 288 pages the book spans, Rabin takes the knife to the films he's chosen, while providing historical context and in some cases insight from those directly involved.  Each film is given equal time, each movie objectively evaluated equally, and each entry is an entertaining mix of trivia and snark.  Every film falls into one of three categories:  Failure, Fiasco, or Secret Success.  (To clarify: a Failure just doesn't make the cut, no matter how you put it, a Fiasco fails, but does so with flying colors, and a Secret Success turns out to be a a gem that just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.)  What's most interesting is when Mr. Rabin actually gets to interview someone that actually worked on the project he's just spent about a good couple pages either defending or eviscerating.  These interviews try to clarify somehow just what went wrong, who's to blame, and ultimately what lessons were learned in the act of flopping.  You might be surprised to see just what passes for a Secret Success, as well as just a mild "failure"; but the Fiascos are well screened.
Reading this book is a breeze, much like other anthologies I've read.  This one might have breezed by faster though because not unlike Mr. Rabin, I have a slight fixation with cinematic failure.  I've always wanted to riff a copy of Gigli, see just how horrible Ishtar was to have gained its reputation, and always take time to rip a new asshole in the remake of Psycho that should never have existed.  If you are a movie geek, or even fixated with just how bad ideas are created, this book is definitely your thing.  (Though if the relatively average length of this book makes you feel safe when it comes to films you thought most surely would make it onto the least, fear not...his entire archive/continuing adventures can be found here, and hopefully in 'My Year of Flops 2: Flop Harder'."

As if reviewing flops, expanding pre-existing reviews on his flops, and writing brand new "book exclusive" reviews for flops wasn't enough, Nathan does what only the brave have ever attempted...write a real time review of the Director's Cut to Waterworld.  This alone should be the reason you read this book, if anything to vindicate the author's dedication to his collection and destruction/redemption of such publicly neglected films.   (That, and it has a rather interesting anecdote about James Caan and his love of orally pleasuring females.)  Rabin uses his A.V. Club savvy and knowledge to tie together a collection of analysis that ultimately makes us think, just what films would we defend liking in public and which ones we leave in the dark corners of our DVD shelves.  

With another Holiday Movie Season approaching us, now is as good a time as any to read "My Year of Flops: The A.V. Club Presents One Man's Journey Deep into the Heart of Cinematic Failure", if only to help us truly separate the wheat from the chaff.  Indeed, if this book were to have been released this Summer, we might have seen a Box Office where Scott Pilgrim Versus the World would have ruled, and Eclipse would have resided in its rightful position next to Gigli.  To put it in corny critic pullquotes: "It's no secret, this book is a success!"

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

"An Abundance of Katherines" by John Green

Getting dumped makes a person look inwards just a little too much.  We wonder what we've done to draw this fate upon our person, we think about whether we really deserved it or not, but mostly we just can't help but wanting the person who dumped us back.  Maybe it's because our emotional investment isn't as easily forgotten as that of the person who dumped us, or maybe we're just fixated with how things work and how they eventually don't.  Colin Singleton is a little bit of both, and throughout his life he's had one major quirk when it comes to his dating life...all 19 of his girlfriends have been named Katherine.

An Abundance of Katherines tells Colin's story of introspection and fixation as he tries to make the leap from "Prodigy" (someone who can learn really fast) to "Genius" (someone who can create unique, intellectual  properties and ideas).  To do this, he's taken his introspective eye and started to plot out the relationships he's had with all 19 Katherines onto graphs that use a mathematical formula he's created to pinpoint where and when a relationship begins and ends.  More importantly, he believes his formula can figure out who will dump whom in the relationship, thus separating people into two flat categories: Dumpers and Dumpees.  None of this would have been possible if it weren't for his best friend Hassan and his decision to drag his best friend on a road trip to the South, but don't tell him that...geniuses are rather sensitive of their capability for independent thought.

I discovered this book, on happy coincidence, through a Barnes and Noble clearance sale not too long ago. Up until that point, I'd never heard of John Green or any of the books that he had written. However, the concepts intrigued me as they centered around similar premises: young man falls for a somewhat quirky girl and goes on a journey to find out more about himself and deal with said romance. The variation on the theme in An Abundance of Katherines: our protagonist is dealing with the absence of romance instead of the pursuit of it.

John Green has honestly and truthfully written a character I can believe exists in real life, particularly because I see shades of myself within Colin.  Ok, so I wasn't a prodigy in anything except reading, but I was considered a "smart kid".  As many "smart kids" know, once High School is over, the rest looks pretty competitive and downhill.  Colin is so ahead of the curve with his contemporaries that he sees what they won't see for a little while longer...High School, if your not careful, is where you peak.  The trick to not peaking is simple in concept, but hard in execution: do something that makes your name stand out.  It is this journey that Colin embarks on, mostly because it keeps his mind off of Katherine (whom we learn more about as the book goes on), that he tries to actually matter to the world.  His heartache, his longing, and eventually his rejuvenation at the prospect of a new love is all extremely human and extremely identifiable.  This book may be written as "Young Adult Fiction", but age the characters a bit and change the setting, and you've still got a story that's at times poignant and at times funny.

I might not have heard of John Green before discovering and reading this book, but I can see why all of his books have consistently high Amazon and Barnes and Noble customer ratings.  Green's characters are real people, with real experiences and journeys, thoughts, and hopes.  They just live in a world parallel to ours where things are slightly different.  For what it's worth, I enjoy that slightly different world quite a bit; where problems are solved with road trips, bravery is found during a hog hunt, and ultimately all of the answers reveal themselves to you through a piece of paper, a phone call, and a moderately adventurous trip down South. 

A read that should never have to be a "Bargain Book" (but is especially worth the effort of procuring should you find it at such a price)  An Abundance of Katherines is one of the highest recommendations I can give, especially for a piece of YA Fiction.  These are characters I can relate to, events I can remember dealing with myself, and happenings I kind of wish I could have had myself as a teenager.  I can't wait to read more of Mr. Green's work, because if it's as captivating as this book was, I won't have a problem buying the whole lot in an instant.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

"Last Night at the Lobster" by Stewart O'Nan

Ever have a job where despite things like lack of a decent wage or work that seemed to make you feel like a slave in some gulag, you couldn't help but enjoy the fact that at least you were surrounded by people you enjoyed (maybe even loved)?  Last Night at the Lobster chronicles one night in the lives of a bunch of people who feel that same way, the only difference is this night in particular is their last together as a team.

We open with Manny DeLeon, the protagonist and our viewpoint through which we experience this story, getting high on a crack pipe in his car before work.  With this introduction, as well as throughout the book, we learn that Manny isn't the best role model in the world outside of his job.  On the job, is another story, as we see Manny marshall the troops and endure walk-outs, no-shows, pushy customers, lingering feelings for a mistress he once had a fling with, and his own musings on just where the Hell this last night leaves him anyway.  Not to mention, he needs to find "the perfect gift" for his pregnant girlfriend and make sure nobody's cleaning the restaurant out of important things like alcohol or food.  As if his problems weren't numerous enough.

While the book is predominantly a somber drama, it does have its slight moments of humor.  For the most part, Last Night at the Lobster is a meditative drama that makes us think about how much of our personalities are because of our job, and vice versa.  Manny has an unshakable sense of duty to "the Lobster", but yet that type of loyalty is lacking in his personal life.  It seems as if he knows how to deal with the people in the Lobster more than he knows how to deal with them outside of it.  Also, the book takes advantage of a more real time approach by using all 160 pages to explore the entire narrative through line from one character's perspective through an entire double shift.  This leads to a more intimate story, and a more personally invested one that leaves you almost sad when the ending comes.  I for one wished the story was longer:  not because I was unsatisfied, but because I wanted to spend more time with Manny.

Last Night at the Lobster is a quick read that hits emotional highs and lows over the course of several hours of work.  It wastes no pages on preliminary exposition, allowing us to pick things up as they are mentioned; which is the Cherry on the story's sundae of organic storytelling.  Overall, it is one of the most reality based books I've ever read.  There are no short cuts, no oversights, and no easy endings.  Everything is earned, and in the end it is more endearing of a story for telling us the sad, somber truth than lying to us with a cookie cutter happy ending.

Monday, October 18, 2010

"Two Gentlemen of Lebowski" by Adam Bertocci

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the fine folks at Simon and Schuster, particularly my Publicity point of contact Jessica Abell. I'm not getting paid for this, I just do it out of the enjoyment of reading.

"Fuck it, Dude.  Let's go bowling." - Walter Sobchack

"The Big Lebowski", upon its initial release, was a dud.  For some reason the theatrical audiences of 1998 weren't ready for a "Film Noir meets Stoner Picture" mashup reminiscent of Elmore Leonard.  Considering Get Shorty was mildly successful years prior, one would assume that this could have been a bigger hit.  Both are criminally centered, both feature almost anti hero protagonists, and both had casts that were well equipped to pull off their respective roles.  The only difference was that everything about The Big Lebowski wasn't as big as it is today.  Now, it's an oft quoted work of filmic glory that featured Julianne Moore and Phillip Seymour Hoffman (before they were mostly Indie/Prestige Picture Players), Tara Reid (before she was in rehab), and Jeff Bridges (in a role that probably started the build-up to his comeback that would eventually come to fruition in Crazy Heart)...all before they moved on to bigger, better things.

"A pox upon't, Knave; let us play at ninepins." - Sir Walter of Poland

Archaic translation has been a pretty popular source of Internet Meme based humor as of late, mostly accompanied with the exaggerated visage of French painter Joseph Ducreux.  Much like this work's source material, archaic translation is basically finding humor in something that once existed (and whether the original artists like it or not) and discovering its previously undiscovered comedic weight.  Mostly been used for short form works, archaic translation hasn't really been used to its full comedic potential.  All that has changed thanks to Adam Bertocci's whip-smart work of academic laughter, "Two Gentlemen of Lebowski".

The Genesis of this project is just as interesting as the case of Bonnie Lebowski's disappearance.  "Two Gentlemen of Lebowski: A Most Excellent Comedie and Tragical Romance" hit the Internet and slowly began to build buzz, primarily through Facebook.  Through that, the author became another one of those "Internet Sensations".  Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, and Julianne Moore all had positive things to say about the project, and unlike the original telling of The Dude's Tale, Adam Bertocci's version started heading to bigger and better things right from the off.  (In no small part thanks to the cult following The Coen Brothers' original masterpiece had built.)  Audiences sold out most, if not all, of the limited performances of "Two Gentlemen of Lebowski: A Most Excellent Comedie and Tragical Romance". 

Sadly, after such success, some rights issues came up and forced the play off the Internet and off the stages.  (Nothing says irony like having the rights holders protesting your work of fiction based off of a film which, at first, was a loss leader for a major Hollywood studio.)  After cryptic status updates and teasing from Mr. Bertocci himself, the Knave had his day and Two Gentlemen of Lebowski: A Most Excellent Comedie and Tragical Romance was announced for publication.  After its uphill struggle, its long slog to glory, the world (or at least anyone with a review copy) has the finished product in front of it/them.  Was it worth the time and effort?  The short answer would be, "Yay, and verily!"

Two Gentlemen of Lebowski manages to successfully mash up Shakespearean literature with the Coen Brothers' sense of humor.  More than just a literal translation of the source material, Two Gentlemen transplants the story we've seen before into an era that (surprising to some) actually fits it quite well.  Vengeful thugs, powerful villains, protagonists versed in humor of a more ribald nature, the cold but pursuant love interest to our hero's quest...all done in the works of Shakespeare.  (Bonus Lit Geek Points: The Book is LITTERED with Shakespearean references, direct quotes, and lampoons from all of his "Greatest Hits".)  The basic plot is still the same, but slightly re-staged to fit the time period, which goes the extra mile in exceeding as an individual work instead of just a successful parody.  Even funnier, the book is laid out like the annotated versions of Shakespeare you'd remember from your school days.  Not since "America: The Book" or "I Am America (And So Can You)" have I gained so many laughs out of the footnotes!

This is a rare work that receives no qualms from me at all.  I honestly can't come up with a single thing I don't like about this book, save the fact that it should be openly produced on the stage for all to see.  (Seriously, Broadway...could you imagine the coin you'd bank with this being put on by the film's original cast?!  One show, one night, all the stars!  This is the easiest charity opportunity you've stumbled upon in years!)  It's a breezy read that makes for easy, single serving enjoyment; while at the same time being of deep enough detail that you could actually teach this side by side with actual Shakespeare plays in a Collegiate English course.  All of your favorite lines are here, all of your favorite moments are present...all that's different is it's much more dramatic, with flowery prose and an amped up laugh factor.  Two Gentlemen of Lebowski: A Most Excellent Comedie and Tragical Romance is a tale full of nihilism and apathy, told by a drifter, signifying that The Knave doth indeed abideth.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Girl Who'll Have To Wait Upon My Shelf

So The Fall I was ready and willing to read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  A friend at work had recommended it, it sat in my closet since its release, and I love a good mystery; so with three reasons that are inarguable I decided I'd give it a go.  Unfortunately, I couldn't really get myself into it, which meant one of two things:

A.) I wasn't into the book and had wasted money on the trilogy.

B.) I had Reader's Block.

Without a doubt B is the answer I have to go with here, simply because after all of the books I've read I never really gave myself a proper reading break.  I've been dealing with weighty tomes of bloodsuckers, and to tackle what I hear is quite a dark and unforgiving series is not exactly the best idea at the time.  So, for a little while at least, my reading diet will consist of three things:  Whimsy, Comedy, and Comic Books.

Just because I've given myself a break doesn't mean I won't be reviewing anything.  As a matter of fact, you should expect reviews on The Walking Dead and Scott Pilgrim, as well as "I Hate Other People's Kids", "Spoiled Rotten America", and a Doctor Who book I've specially chosen for this time of year.  ("Forever Autumn".)  If that's not enough, I've been listening to two audiobooks recently that I'll also be throwing into the pot: Carrie Fisher's "Wishful Drinking" and Paul Shaffer's "We'll Be Here For The Rest Of Our Lives".  Both Unabridged, both read by their authors, and both infinitely entertianing. 

I'll eventually return to Lisbeth Salander at some point, but for now I feel as if I need some time to breath when it comes to Mysteries.  In the meantime, buy yourself a copy of The Fall: Book Two of the Strain Trilogy.  It's out in bookstores today, and I cannot stress the point enough that if you want quality modern vampire fiction, this is the series you've been waiting for.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

"The Fall" by Guillermo Del Toro & Chuck Hogan

At last!  The first review for The Bookish Kind is here!  A further note, I've decided to do away with the ranking system for the ratings.  You're just going to have to read the review to find out if I liked it or not. :D 

Also, I'm just going to issue a SPOILER ALERT for anyone who hasn't read The Strain.

Pre-Order The Fall: Book Two of the Strain Trilogy.  No, seriously, pre-order it with that link I just  provided above this sentence.  While you're at it, you should probably purchase a copy of The Strain: Book One of The Strain Trilogy.  If you're a Horror fan, a Suspense fan, a Vampire fan, or even just a Good Book fan; you'll have no problems finishing these two books in short order and find yourself eager for The Night Eternal.  This probably (no, definitely) sounds like hyperbole cooked up to appease a corporate master, but in all honesty these books are addicting reads.

By the end of "The Strain", we found Eph Goodweather and his team of vampire defenders staring down the barrel of the gun that The Master had pointed at humanity's head.  The vampiric plague was starting to spread, and Mankind was poised at the edge.  In "The Fall", the stage is set right from the opening excerpt from Eph's journal:  By November, we're done for.  Proceeding into the main story, we find that two certain vampires are stalking the group and for two different reasons.  One is Eph's ex-wife Kelly, who is trying to claim her "Dear One"...their son, Zach.  The other is The Master, who is fixated with bad assed Intellectual/Vampire Hunter Abraham Setrakian, and intent on causing his demise.  As these personal stories play out, our heroes will bear witness to events that will set up the starting point for The Night Eternal.

This book is the Empire Strikes Back of the Trilogy, meaning that this is a dark thoroughfare to the end of the series, which itself is not guaranteed to be a happy ending.  After the initial entry's high Horror content, this second installment eases back on the disgusting/shocking factor and goes into Exposition/Setup mode.  Again, we're treated to the A and B Story format, alternating between the ensemble in the Present and Setrakian's past; and again we're treated to two stories that are equally intriguing.  We're given more detail involving Setrakian's past with some of the principal Vampires in the story, particularly Nazi Camp Commander turned Vampire Eichhorst (who pretty much serves as Abraham's arch rival, second only to The Master); and we're even given more background into Eldritch Palmer, the Millionaire aiding The Master's plans, and just how he became involved in this whole story in the first place.

That's not to say that the book doesn't have its fair share of blood and violence, in fact this book is packed with street fights between Vampires and Humans.  There is no shortage of action or destruction in this book, with the fight spilling into the streets and the proverbial big guns being fired off at every turn.  In fact this book is basically one big gang war between us and them.  Strangely enough though, as much violence and gore there is in this book, one of it's main themes is the power Love has over us.  We learn more about Setrakian's wife, we read about the birth of Zach, and we even see Nora start to crack under the pressure when trying to secure her mother, an Alzheimer's patient.  We see characters react out of nobility, out of duty, and out of genuine affection for one another.  It is this heroism and this emotionality that make the book's closing events all the more devastating.  Don't be fooled by the recurring theme of Love, this is still very much an Apocalypse story, and as such don't go in expecting to see the Sun shining through the clouds.  To be anything short of a gut punch would ruin the momentum of this series, and that is something I'm proud to say does not happen.

Once again, Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan both display their exemplary abilities as storytellers.  I found that while this book wasn't as thrilling as the first, it was still an easy, engrossing read that captivates attention and is rich in detail.  What's more, this isn't supposed to be a "thrilling" entry, at least if you follow the Trilogy Playbook.  Middle entries are the ones that stereotypically (and effectively) put the pieces into place for the Grand Finale.  The trick to writing a great Middle though is to recall the Beginning and hint heavily toward the End.  The Fall does both in spades, and also gives us a scenario that is so bleak and crushing, one can only wonder how the Hell the third entry is going to pan out.  By the end of The Fall, you will truly see Mankind on its knees.  How they rise up in The Night Eternal will ultimately be how we judge this series as a whole.  If they just keep things on course, it'll be an easy win.  But Del Toro and Hogan aren't the type of storytellers that settle for anything short of their all, and I predict/hope that the final installment will be the stuff of nightmares and literary victory.

P.S.  Just one last, brief gripe I have for Harper Collins.  What happened to the kick assed cover art from the back cover flap of The Strain?  You had two really neat looking covers that complimented my Hardcover of The Strain so well.  I was even set on buying a Hardcover to continue my collection.  (I'm that picky about my book collection.)  Any chance of doing a limited Hardcover run with the originally planned cover and going back to the original format for The Night Eternal?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

A Big To-Do About Nothing

First off, thanks to everyone who voted in the Pilot Season polls...all four of you.  Seeing as the Pilot Season was met with a collective "Meh", and I grew tired of Solar (and pre-scheduled reading for the time), I've decided to scrap the Pilot Season. I'll still be reading The Passage and The Last Living Slut, but

That said, I do have the first book lined up to kick things off over here at The Bookish Kind.  You may remember me raving about its predecessor, seeing as it's second in a series and I've enthusiastically reviewed the first installment in the past.  So the new launch title for TBK is none other than...

Looks like I'm not done slaying vampires yet. 

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Pilot Season Results Show (and Run Off Election)

It was a close race (though some wouldn't see it as a race at all), but in the end Solar by Ian McEwan won the privilege of being the book to kick off The Bookish Kind's Pilot Season.  In a close second (mostly because my friend Jess cast her vote through Facebook chat just as the poll had closed), The Passage by Justin Cronin (which I eventually just went and bought, no thanks to Random House's Publicity Copy Runaround) will be the second to be read.

Here's where the run off election bit comes in though: The Last Living Slut and The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ are both tied up, leaving a contest for who should be in third place.  So for one day, I will be leaving a poll up for which book should be in Third.  Should this yield another tie (or no result at all), I will select a book as according to my own scheduling preference.  Last, and most certainly not least, Glenn Beck's latest fiction The Ludlum Impostor The Overton Window will be bringing up the rear in last place.  (C'mon people, it's Glenn Beck: America's favorite rodeo clown!  This is BOUND to be comedic gold.)

At the moment, I'm still finishing up Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter for Vamp-O-Rama over at Mr. Controversy, but as soon as that's wrapped, it's on to Solar.  Until then, keep reading.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Pilot Season Selection Show (with the Review System Breakdown)

Hey everyone!  I'm still pulling everything together over here, and a crucial part of that process is, naturally, the selection of the first book to be reviewed here on The Bookish Kind.  I've narrowed it down to five candidates, complete with hyperlinks for review:

All five of these titles will make up The Bookish Kind's Pilot Season, but only you the readers will determine the order in which they are read.  So now, with your selection in mind, please vote for what you think should be the first review ever on The Bookish Kind.  I will close the poll a week from today, or whenever I feel a satisfactory result has been reached.

Second order of business, I will begin to rank the books I review with a Star Ranking System, so as to indicate the quality of the book.  This is partially because I'm going to attempt to qualify for the Amazon Vine program, which would qualify me for further review copies of books, just in case I strike out with the publisher.  The ranking system is broken down as follows:

* - Thank God It Was a Review Copy/Borrowed From a Friend
** - Worth a Library Rental (with light fines)
*** - Buy the Mass Market Paperback
**** - Buy the Paperback
***** - Buy the Hardcover

I will be grading on the following specifics:

- Plot
- Writing Style
- Cover Art/Illustrations
- Quality of Synopsis/Blurb

They will each get their own numerical score, that will be averaged and yield the final score which will correlate with the starred ranking system above.  A lot of ambition, I know; but it's time to get even more serious about this book reviewing thing, especially if I ever plan on writing a book.  This project will help me hone a critical eye and examine as many flaws in putting a book together as I can find, so that I may (hopefully) side step them.

Well, that's all out of me for now.  Until next time, vote in the poll and spread the site to all you think would be interested.  (Ok, one last question: how would you all feel about guest reviews culled from you, the readers?)


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

An Introduction

Welcome to "The Bookish Kind", my first spinoff blog project spawned from the depths of Mr. Controversy (which can still be conveniently read here).  I realize an explanation is in order, so allow me to explain.

As the Mr. Controversy crowd would know, I read a lot.  I have stacks upon stacks of books in my house, and I drive people insane with the fact that I can't seem to stop buying books.  Up until now, one of the fixtures of my blog has been my book reviews, which is thanks in part to generous publishers such as Hachette Book Group and Hard Case Crime, since they provide me with a healthy amount of review copies.  Lately though, I've been thinking of creating a separate blog that would not only house book reviews, but also other literary musings and (hopefully) interviews with people about the printed word.

I have big plans for this outlet, and I hope to see them through as soon as possible.  For now, please be patient as this is a brand new venture and needs some shakedown time.  Let the great experiment begin!

Best (as always),

Mike Reyes (aka Mr. Controversy)