Monday, February 22, 2010

Horns by Joe Hill

Title: Horns
Author: Joe Hill
Genre: Horror/Suspense
Publisher: William Morrow, 2010
Pages: 370

I read Joe Hill’s first novel, Heart-Shaped Box, and liked it enough to enter the giveaway for Horns on  Five days before the book’s release I received an advance reader copy in the mail.  There was no communication in the package, but I’m assuming it’s from the Goodreads giveaway.

Horns starts out with a solid energy that gave me the feeling that I was getting into a book “that runs like hell on wheels” as the back of the book proclaims.  Ignatius ("Ig") William Perrish wakes up one morning with a bad hangover and horns growing out of his skull.  He soon discovers that the horns have powers that are a bit of a liability.  There's an angry rock-like pulse to the beginning of the book that creates a tension that you're hoping will lead to a sweet explosion.

However, the book downshifts into lower gear throughout the mid-section which is where we find out the details of how Ig's girlfriend of ten years (they started dating at 15) was murdered.  By the middle of the book you know who all the major players are, who the bad guy (probably) is, and you have an inkling about how things may end up.  Its still good reading, but it gets a little . . . slow.  I felt like the throbbing horror novel that I'd started with turned into a more poised, self-contained literary novel.  Shortly after page 300 information comes out that helped me appreciate the slow set up a bit more, but I am still left with the sense that the tension created in the beginning of the book could have been maintained more consistently throughout.

But Joe Hill is a really good writer and funny as, well, hell, so I happily kept reading.  I also had the sense that Hill was working something out.  Unlike other novels that lag in the middle, this one never made me want to stop reading or wonder 'what’s the point?' or think the writer lacked talent.  Hill shows the development of the various relationships between characters by slowly layering bits of relationship history, and that's what contributes to his strong characterizations.  The “good guys” were more fully developed and enjoyable then the “bad guys, ” but overall the universe of this book is completely believable.

There’s no doubt that Hill is a wonderful storyteller and strong writer whose talent is on the rise.  I greatly appreciate his sense of humor and the pithy bits of religious commentary that he sprinkles throughout Horns. Horror, suspense, and some literary aficionados should keep Joe Hill on their radar, if he isn't already there.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Publishing a Blog with Blogger

Title: Publishing a Blog with Blogger, 2nd Edition
Author: Elizabeth Castro
Publisher: Peachpit Press, 2010
ISBN-10: 0321637526
Pages: 170 + index
Series: Visual QuickProject Guide

I came across Publishing a Blog with Blogger on the new book display at my public library.  Since I just started this blog using Blogger, I thought I'd take the book home and see what little tricks I might pick up.

Blogger is a straight-forward, user friendly tool and it takes just minutes to get a blog "live." I have created and/or maintained websites using HTML and click-n-build software, so I'm perhaps a bit more comfortable than the average computer user when it comes to clicking around such software.  I imagine that many adventurous computer users, especially those who have their own social media profile(s), would be able to figure out the ins-and-outs of Blogger on their own after a week or two experimenting with the features on their own. 

But for those who are short on time, have limited internet and/or computer experience or for those who prefer to see they lay of the land before striking out on their own, Publishing a Blog with Blogger is a helpful companion to have perched on your computer desk as you explore Blogger.  Its a colorful book with explanatory page shots that give simple step-by-step instructions on how to create, edit, and delete content.  The book takes you through the creation of a blog which you can see here.

Although I'm comfortable using the basic features of Blogger, Publishing a Blog with Blogger also introduced me to features I may not have sought out such as adding video and audio content. The neatest thing I learned about from this book is Google Analytics.  This free tool does more than just tell you how many visitors your blog has had, it tells you where they're coming from, how long they stay, what search words they used, and how deeply they explored your blog.  This site is a hobby for me, but for someone using their blog for business purposes, Google Analytics could help target one's marketing & outreach efforts.   

Overall: an informative, helpful, easy to use book.

Monday, February 8, 2010

New Scottoline in March!

I'm so excited!  I just found out Lisa Scottoline's new novel, Think Twice, is scheduled to hit the shelves on March 16, 2010.  If you haven't yet read Scottoline, don't wait any longer.  She writes mystery/thrillers that feature strong, realistic women who come off the page like someone you want to be friends with or, sometimes, like the bitch you'd prefer to avoid.  And she's funny.  That's a hard thing to do in a mystery/thriller without sounding all cutesy or a bit too dark.  

Scottoline has written some successful stand alone novels, but gained her initial fan base with her Rosato & Associates series about an all women law firm.  Her books are thrilling, funny, and leave you feeling like there's hope in the world, that although there are some bad people out there, ultimately the good will prevail.  You can read the first chapter of Think Twice at Lisa's website.

And if she comes to a town near you for an event, GO because her book signings are a blast . . . and she's been known to bring snacks for the audience.

Here's a chronological list of her books:
Why My Third Husband Will Be A Dog, 2009 (non-fiction)
Look Again, 2009
Lady Killer, 2008*
Daddy's Girl, 2007
Dirty Blonde, 2006
Devil's Corner, 2005
Killer Smile, 2004*
Dead Ringer, 2003*
Courting Trouble, 2003*
The Vendetta Defense, 2001*
Moment of Truth, 2000*
Mistaken Identity, 1999*
Rough Justice, 1998*
Legal Tender, 1997*
Running From the Law, 1996
Final Appeal, 1995
Everywhere That Mary Went, 1994*

*denotes books with characters from Rosato & Associates

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell

Title: Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10
Author: Marcus Luttrell
Publisher: Back Bay Books (2007)
Little, Brown and Company; Reprint edition (2009), 464 pages

Mixed feelings about this book.  I actually read it back in February of 2009.  I'd been looking forward to it and was saving it for vacation.  Lone Survivor is the story of Luttrell's life, from growing up in East Texas, to SEAL training, to his fight to stay alive in Afghanistan and his homecoming.

As a veteran myself, I really wanted to like this book, but it is poorly written and plays into the knee-jerk simplicity of the tiresome "liberal" versus "conservative" shouting match that is considered political discourse these days.  The "I love Texas" line grew tiresome as well.  There is a co-author involved, Patrick Robinson, so perhaps he was trying to infuse Luttrell's voice into the storyline, but the result makes Luttrell sound ignorant if not a bit unstable at times.  Or maybe Robinson highlighted the "liberal media" rant as a literary hook on which to hang the story, because in his talk at the Pritzker Military Library in 2008, Luttrell is charming and does not come across as polarizing at all. You can watch a video or listen to the podcast of Marcus Luttrell's talk at the Pritzker here

Luttrell is a tough, heroic man, no doubt, and I have a deep respect for his service, but the book is marred by the rants against liberals and the "liberal media."  The liberals did not create the Geneva Conventions or the Rules of Engagement under which SEAL Team 10 operated.  I would like to think that those serving in the Armed Forces today remember that they are defending the Constitution of the United States of America, which they swear an oath to defend, and not a political party or the mythology of their home state. 

I was intrigued enough by Luttrell's book to finish it, but wouldn't recommend it to a general audience.  Those who read a lot of military history will probably want to read it, as will those who'd like to know what SEAL training is like.  For those who don't regularly read military themed books, but are interested in reading a contemporary military memoir, I highly recommend Craig Mullaney's The Unforgiving Minute: A Soldier's Education (2009) and Nathaniel Fick's One Bullet Away: The Making of a Marine Officer (2005), and, to a lesser extent, Anthony Swofford's Jarhead: A Marine's Chronicle of the Gulf War and Other Battles (2003).  I was not surprised to see that these three books were all included on The Military Times' recent list of the best military books of the decade.  Lone Survivor did not make the list.

Monday, February 1, 2010

One day, two libraries, six books

My local public library re-opened today after closing in November for an internal make over.  I am so happy to have it back!  I checked out a bunch of music and these three books:

  • Publishing a Blog with Blogger, 2nd Edition, by Elizabeth Castro.  I hope to pick up some pointers on making this blog a better reading experience for the one follower that I currently have.
  • The Everything Feng Shui Decluttering Book by Katina Jones.  My partner and I have a mission to do some serious decluttering around the house this year.  It started with my home office last year and the clutter is creeping back already.  I need all the help I can get.  
  • Hitler: The Man and the Military Leader by Percy Ernst Schramm, translated by Donald S. Detwiler.  Although I've read a fair amount about Germany in World War I (my grandfather fought on the German side), when it comes to World War II, I've mainly read books and memoirs about the Pacific Theater and not much about the war in Germany or Europe.  When I was younger and in the Marines, I wanted to know about the battles in which Marines participated.  However, my mother and family lived through WWII in Dresden and I haven't had the stomach to read about Germany during World War II.  Plus, the number of books on WWII and Nazi Germany is just so daunting...where does one begin?  Schramm's book was the thinnest one available about Hitler on the shelf today, which is why I chose it.  Last year I read Lev Raphael's superb memoir, My Germany: A Jewish Writer Returns to the World His Parents Escaped.   My Germany came out in January 2009 and it caught my eye at work when I was unpacking boxes of new books.  I read the flaps, put it on the shelving cart, picked it back up and read a few pages, put it back on the cart, left the room, and then went back for it a few hours later on my way home for the night.  In the last few months I've read two novels about Germans in WWII, both of which caught my eye at two different libraries: The Arms Maker of Berlin and An Honorable German.  I'm currently reading a non-fiction memoir:  Soldat: Reflections of a German Soldier, 1936-1949 by Siegfried Knappe with Ted Brusaw.  I'm 200 pages into it and its a gripping read.  I came across this book on my college library's book exchange shelf on Friday and decided it was meant to be.  If you have a "must read" WWII book that you think I should read, please let me know.
Earlier in the day I stopped in at my college's library to pick up two books that came in for me today from the main campus:
I love libraries!
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