World War Z by Max Brooks

Book: World War Z
Author: Max Brooks

Why I Read It: Because I am a hard core zombie fan. And it looked awesome.
First Line: It goes by many names: "The Crisis," "The Dark Years," "The Walking Plague," as well as newer and more "hip" titles such as "World War Z" or "Z War One."

First Impression: Wow. This is really well written. And a brilliant idea.
Last Impression: Huh. Didn't really think about the impact of zombies on the planet. Or if they could survive drowning or freezing. A little more political than I was anticipating, but great angle to cover in an apocalyptic scenario.

Overall – 5 Heart Racing
Characters – 5 Each and every character was unique and entralling; from regional accents to realistic slang, their voices jumped off the page.
Story – 5 The zombie apocalypse has been told many times, in many ways, ranging from horrorific to comedic, but this approach was brand new. Brooks is skilled in crafting a fluid narrative from the piece meal approach of first person accounts
Narration – 5 The journalistic structure of this "oral history" is well-crafted. The reader is drawn further in through each of the eight sections and the question and answer framework

Read Again? Absolutely. Willingly. Excitedly. And certainly around Halloween.
Tell Others to Read? Yes. Just about everyone. You don't have to be a zombie or horror fan to love this book. Also, you should stay ahead of the curve and read it before the movie comes out.

Excerpt: Two hundred million zombies. Who can even visualize that type of number, let alone combat it? At least this time around we knew what we were combating, but when you added up all the experience, all the data we'd compiled on their origin, their physiology, their strengths, their weaknesses, their motives, and their mentality, it still presented us with a very gloomy prospect for victory.
     The book of war, the one we've been writing since one ape slapped another, was completely useless in this situation. We had to write a new one from scratch.

An Abduction by Tessa Hadley

Jane Allsop was abducted when she was fifteen, and nobody noticed. This happened a long time ago, in Surrey, in the nineteen-sixties, when parents were more careless. She was home from boarding school for the summer, and day after day the sun rose into a cloudless sky, from which Jane couldn’t unfix the word “cerulean,” which she’d learned in the art room. (She wasn’t clever or literary, and was nervous of new words, which seemed to stick to her.) “Cerulean” was more of a blank, baking glare than mere merry blue.
It prised its way each morning like a chisel through the crack between Jane’s flowered bedroom curtains and between the eyelids she squeezed tightly shut in an effort to stay inside her dreams. It wasn’t acceptable in Jane’s kind of family to complain about good weather, yet the strain of it told on them, parents and children: they were remorselessly cheerful, while secretly they longed for rain. Jane imagined herself curled up with a bag of licorice beside a streaming windowpane, reading about the Chalet School. But her mother said it was a crime to stay indoors while the sun shone, and Jane couldn’t read outside with the same absorption; there was always some strikingly perfect speckled insect falling onto your page like a reminder (of what? of itself), or a root nudging into your back, or stinging ants inside your shorts.
The morning of the abduction, Mrs. Allsop—dishevelled in a limp linen shirtdress—was wielding her secateurs up a ladder, pruning the climbing roses. She was immensely capable; tall and big-boned with a pink, pleasant face and dry yellow hair chopped sensibly short. Jane admired her mother greatly, especially when she transformed herself at night, for a concert in London or a Rotary Club dinner, with clip-on pearl earrings and lipstick and scent, a frilled taupe satin stole. Jane coveted this stole and tried it on when her mother was at the shops, making sultry faces at herself in the mirror—although sultry was the last thing her mother was, and everyone told Jane that she looked just like her. She certainly seemed to have her mother’s figure, with not much bust, no waist to speak of, and a broad flat behind.

The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson

Book: The Psychopath Test
Author: Jon Ronson

Why I Read It: I have quite the interesting in abnormal psychology and did a bit of research on the Hare Psychopath Checklist while working on my MA, so this title jumped off the shelf at me
First Line: This is a story about madness.

First Impression: Huh. Definitely not the way I thought this story would start.
Last Impression: It was interesting....I guess.

Overall – 2 Faint Pulse
Characters – 2 There aren't characters, just real people interviewed who were sometimes given aliases to hid their identity. Ronson doesn't spend much time on descriptions of these people and as a results they feel rather flat.
Story – 2 The story starts in an unexpected and weak place for the expectations the title and cover imagery create, and since the ending is tied to the beginning it is not strong either. The rest of the novel is entertaining in rare moments and I learned a little, but overall I was underwhelmed.
Narration – 3 Ronson has skill with gathering the appropriate research, contacts and tidbits for his work, but they are tied together in a rather haphazard way, giving the novel an disjointed and disconnected feel.

Read Again? No. I read it once and now my curiosity is satisfied.
Tell Others to Read? No, probably not. There are other journalistic novelists that I would recommend first.

Excerpt: It was an awful lot harder, Tony told me, to convince people you're sane rather than it is to convince them you're crazy.
     "I thought the best way to seem normal," he said, "would be to talk to people normally about normal things like football and what's on TV. That's the obvious thing to do, right? I subscribe to New Scientist. I like reading about scientific breakthroughs. One time they had an article about how the U.S. Army was training bumblebees to sniff out explosives. So I said to a nurse, 'Did you know that the U.S. Army is training bumblebees to sniff out explosives?' Later when I read my medical notes, I saw they'd written, Thinks bees can sniff out explosives."

Good Neighbors by Jonathan Franzen

Walter and Patty Berglund were the young pioneers of Ramsey Hill—the first college grads to buy a house on Barrier Street since the old heart of St. Paul had fallen on hard times three decades earlier. The Berglunds paid nothing for their Victorian and then killed themselves for ten years renovating it.

Early on, some very determined person torched their garage and twice broke into their car before they got the garage rebuilt. Sunburned bikers descended on the vacant lot across the alley to drink Schlitz and grill knockwurst and rev engines at small hours until Patty went outside in sweatclothes and said, “Hey, you guys, you know what?”

Patty frightened nobody, but she’d been a standout athlete in high school and college and possessed a jock sort of fearlessness. From her first day in the neighborhood, she was helplessly conspicuous. Tall, ponytailed, absurdly young, pushing a stroller past stripped cars and broken beer bottles and barfed-upon old snow, she might have been carrying all the hours of her day in the string bags that hung from her stroller.

Behind her you could see the baby-encumbered preparations for a morning of baby-encumbered errands; ahead of her, an afternoon of public radio, “The Silver Palate Cookbook,” cloth diapers, drywall compound, and latex paint, and then “Goodnight Moon,” then Zinfandel. She was already fully the thing that was just starting to happen to the rest of the street.

In the earliest years, when you could still drive a Volvo 240 without feeling self-conscious, the collective task in Ramsey Hill was to relearn certain life skills that your own parents had fled to the suburbs specifically to unlearn, like how to interest the local cops in actually doing their job, and how to protect a bike from a highly motivated thief, and when to bother rousting a drunk from your lawn furniture, and how to encourage feral cats to shit in somebody else’s children’s sandbox, and how to determine whether a public school sucked too much to bother trying to fix it.

End of Eternity by Isaac Asimov

Book: The End of Eternity
Author: Isaac Asimov

Why I Read It: Because I am hard core addicted to anything Asimov writes.
First Line: Andrew Harlan stepped into the kettle.

First Impression: Huh. Seems a bit slower than most of Asimov's books.
Last Impression: Kinda bummed they gave the book this title. I knew the ending from about the halfway point.
Overall – 3 Resting Heart Rate
Characters – 3 I love Asimov, but writing female characters has never been his strong suit, and it is certainly the case with the female love interest, Noys, in this novel. The main character Harlan is rather one dimensional and more of a plot device than a person you grow to care about.
Story – 3 Asimov created a unique story about time travel; Harlan exists in Eternity, which is outside of Time and allows people to travel parallel through Time. He falls into a love affair with Noys which makes him question the existence of Eternity and his purpose. The ending was given away by the title, but it was enjoyable to get there.
Narration – 3 The narration doesn't really pull you into the story, but the plot and the characters suffice to accomplish that instead.

Read Again? Perhaps. But I will read his sci-fi short story collections first when the itch for Asimov strikes. I am always glad to read his work but this isn't one of my favorites.
Tell Others to Read? If they are an Asimov fan and they haven't happened across this book, then yes. If they are just being introduced to Asimov, then no. I would steer them towards some of his more impactful works.

Excerpt: It was his hands acting by themselves that brought the kettle to the proper halt at the proper Century.
     Strange that a Technician should feel tense or nervous about anything. What was it that Educator Yarrow had once said:
     "Above all a Technician must be dispassionate. The Reality Change he initiates may affect the lives of as many as fifty billion people. A million or more of these may be so drastically affected as to be considered new individuals. Under these conditions, an emotional make-up is a distinct handicap."
     Harlan put the memory of his teacher's dry voice out of his mind with an almost savage shake of his head. In those days he never imagined that he himself would have the peculiar talent for that very position. But emotion had come upon him after all. Not for fifty billion people. What in Time did he care for fifty billion people? There was just one. One person.

Pretend Blood by Margaret Atwood

Marla got into Past Lives through Sal. They were friends at work – they often had lunch together, and went shopping, and sometimes to movies, with nothing unusual being said.

But one day Sal confided to Marla that in a past life she'd been Cleopatra. The reason she was telling Marla this was that she'd just got engaged – out came a hulking diamond – because she'd run into a man through an internet chat site who'd been Marc Antony, and they'd got together in real life, and needless to say they'd fallen in love, and wasn't that wonderful?

Marla nearly choked on her coffee. First of all, if Sal had been Cleopatra she herself had been the Queen of Sheba, because Sal wasn't exactly anyone's idea of Miss Sexy Ancient Egypt – she was thirty-five and tubby, with a pasty complexion and an overbite. Also, Marla had seen that play – a long time ago, granted, but not so long that she didn't remember the death of Marc Antony, and also that of Cleopatra, what with the asps in a basket.

"It didn't end very well, the first time," she managed to croak out. It was cruel to laugh at someone else's nutty illusion, so she managed not to do that. Anyway, who was she to laugh? Nutty illusion or not, the Cleopatra thing had got results for Sal.

"That's true," Sal said. "It was awful at the time." She gave a little shudder. Then she explained that the good thing about having a past life was that you got the chance to return to earth as the same person you'd once been, but this time you could make things come out better. Which was why so many of the Past Lifers were historic figures who'd had tragic finales. A lot were from the Roman Empire, for instance. And kings and queens, and dukes and duchesses – they'd been prone to trouble because of their ambition and other people's jealousy of them and so forth.

Harry Potter Prequel for Charity by JK Rowling

The speeding motorcycle took the sharp corner so fast in the darkness that both policemen in the pursuing car shouted,”Whoa!”
Sergeant Fisher slammed his large foot on the brake, thinking that the boy who was riding pillion was sure to be flung under his wheels; however, the motorbike made the turn without seating either of its riders, and with a wink of its red tail lights, vanished up the narrow side street.
“We’ve got ‘em now!” cried PC Anderson excitedly. “That’s a dead end!”
Leaning hard on the steering wheel and crashing his gears, Fisher scraped half the paint off the flank of the car as he forced it up the alleyway in pursuit.There in the headlights sat their quarry, stationary at last after a quarter of an hour’s chase. The two riders were trapped between a towering brick wall and the police car, which was now crawling towards them like some growling luminous-eyes predator.
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This work by H.E. Saunders is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.