Any Given Doomsday by Lori Handeland

The Phoenix Chronicles book 1Title:  Any Given Doomsday

Author:  Lori Handeland

Paperback:  343 pages (ARC)

Published:  2008

ISBN:  9780312949198

Acquired:  Won in the August 2008 batch of the LibraryThing Early Readers Program

Challenges:  The ARC Reading Challenge 2010, New Author Challenge 2010

“You’re telling me the fallen angels are still on earth in the form of demons?”

“In a way.  Ever heard of the Grigori and the Nephilim?”  I shook my head.  “The Grigori were known as the watchers.  They were sent to earth to keep an eye on the humans.  They lusted after them instead and were banished by God to Tartarus, the fiery pit where all divine enemies are thrown.”  He shrugged.  “Basically the lowest, locked level of hell.”

Any Given Doomsday by Lori Handeland, page 47 (ARC)

Any Given Doomsday by Lori Handeland was massively given out to LibraryThing’s ER program in August of 2008, and I’ve had it on my ARC-alanche pile since then.  It was out of laziness and distraction, but after reading it, I wonder if it was something more.  Maybe I was tapped into the Collective Conciousness and subconsciously knew it was a craptastic book.  Either way, I’m done with it.  Yay!

Oh my god… where do I begin.  Let’s start with the good things about it.  The plot is an interesting concept.  The Nephilim were the biblically mention sons and daughters of the forbidden union between the angels who were suppose to keep an eye on people and those whom they were suppose to watch.  The creation of this new race gave them a variety of supernatural powers and it is they who are the vampires, werewolves, gods, etc of our mythologies.  Opposing them is a federation of good who seek out and destroy the evil Nephilim.  Another thing I liked about the book was the action (not the action, btw) of demon hunting and solving the mystery of who killed Ruthie, everyone’s favorite mentor.

So where does it go wrong? 

There is vulgar and graphic sex scenes that go on for pages.  I’m not a prude, I can enjoy well-written love-making when it’s appropriate to the story, as in Bedlam, Bath and Beyond.  Even more barbaric and twisted sex like in Bentley Little’s The Store is okay, because it was a necessary part of the story.  But what soils the pages of this book is just gaggy.  The first event occurred within the first 50 pages in which the female narrator describes how she wants to give the guy a blow job.  Later she’s date-raped by the guy who’s suppose to be teaching her how to use her powers, then forcibly raped for a few chapters toward the end.  The sex is bestial and perverse, and isn’t gentle “love” until it’s too late.  No, you don’t have your heroine being raped all over the book, then try to slip in some sweet-lovin’ to make the reader forgive the rape.

And it’s not just the whole rape thing, but it’s the way in which it’s shown.  I swear these are straight out of some guy’s rape-fantasy magazine, because as she’s being raped, she reaches orgasm over and over, as if she has to be taken to have pleasure.  And if all that wasn’t enough, you get to the big boss bad guy’s lair and it’s Gor all the way.  Women waiting around wearing nothing but a chain around their waist, desperately hoping to be used next.  It just started turning my stomach after awhile.

Besides the rape and lack of any moral fiber of anyone, good or bad, except Ruthie who dies in the first chapter, there is the way the book is put together.  At times, the writing is less-than-descriptive (which never happens during the porn), events and sections of the story seem thrown together and not woven in well, and it seems like Handeland wanted to make sure to use ever supernatural being anyone has ever heard of, whether it worked or not.  Case in point:  The half-Nephilim (called breeds) who is a werehyena who fights the cougar (in rural WISCONSIN in April) that’s possessed by a chindi (what the hell is that?), but is defeated when it touches the turquoise necklace our heroine just happens to be wearing that was given to her by her “teacher” who is a skinwalker and hates her dhampir ex-boyfirend who turns out to be a dream-walker.  Oh, and the reason he’s an ex is because she had a psychic vision of him screwing a chick who turns out to be a fairy.

Stretch the limits of credulity much?

Yeah, so it’s an easy guess.  Since I did enjoy some parts of this book it’s not a complete hated-it! but I can’t really give it much higher than a 2 out of 5 stars.

Oh yeah, and I got a very strong feeling the two lovers here will turn out to be brother and sister.

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Neil Armstrong Is My Uncle by Nan Marino

Neil Armstrong is My Uncle and Other Lies Muscle Man McGinty Told Me by Nan MarinoTitle:  Neil Armstrong is My Uncle and Other Lies Muscle Man McGinty Told Me

Author:  Nan Marino

Hardcover:  160 pages

ISBN:  9781596434998

Challenges:  2009 ARC Reading Challenge

From the back of the book:

Muscle Man McGinty is a squirrelly runt, a lying snake, and a pitiful excuse for a ten-year-old.  The problem is that no one on Ramble Street knows it, but me.

Tamara Ann Simpson is tired of all the lies.  And boy, oh boy, can Muscle Man McGinty tell some whoppers!  When he does the unthinkable and challenges the entire block to a game of kickball, Tamara knows she’s found her opportunity to prove to everyone what a wormy little liar Muscle Man really is.  Of course things would be a lot easier if her best friend Kebsie Grobser were here to help her…

It’s the summer of 1969 and the world is getting ready for a young man named Neil Armstrong to make history by walking on the moon.  But change happens a bit more slowly in Massapequa Park, and it’ll take one giant leap for Tamara to understand the likes of Muscle Man McGinty.

I really enjoyed reading Neil Armstrong is My Uncle.  For me, this book was a trip into the past to my own childhood.  While the world of Indian Heights and that of Rumble Street were very different, and a good decade separated us, I could still cast the characters of the book with the kids from my own block.  I was, of course, Tamara.  I could totally relate to her, as I too never quite got the subtleties of the social game and all was black-and-white for me, as well.  I had a few Muscle Men at various stages growing up, people who seem to come along with the world undeservedly on their side.

There are lucky people in the world, and then there are people who always seem to find themselves knee-deep in trouble.  It’s not hard to guess which group I fall into.

If I were lucky, the morning of the us-against-Muscle Man game would be different.  I’d wake up to singing birds and sushine, scarf down a bowl of Apple Jacks, and be the first one standing on the Rattles’ front lawn.

But I’m a “trouble” person.  And that means I’m in deep water from the moment the day begins…

-page 54 in the ARE copy

Okay, so I’ve broke the three things hoped for in the publisher’s letter.  I didn’t read it in one setting in a comfy chair, but in about 5 sits… and in the car, and on the beach, then in the car, and finally in my bed.  I wasn’t born until 1973, so the trip to the moon was old hat by the time I was around, and I didn’t feel like calling anyone to ask them where they were.  And the front cover is about as much interest as my young readers care about the book because the sun is shining and the waves were coming in and the fair is today… and “Come on Mom, why are you still typing?!  We’re gonna miss the rides!  I’m hungry!  I want an elephant ear!  Let’s go, already!”

But Neil Armstrong is My Uncle is a fun book that is supposedly for the 8-12 set, but I never felt like I was reading a kids book, to be honest.  I just had a pleasant vacation into a safe past and for that I thank Nan Marino and Roaring Brook Press for the chance to read it 🙂  I give it 3.5 out of 5 stars.  Oh, and be sure to heck out Nan Marino’s site at http://www.nanmarino.com/

Dexter in the Dark by Jeff Lindsay

Title: Dexter in the Dark
Author: Jeff Lindsay
Paperback: 302 pages
Publisher:  First Vintage Crime/Black Lizard Edition (div of Random House)
Publish Date: 2007
ISBN:  9780307276735

So what kind of moon can this possibly be, with its near breathless smile and smirking lace around the edges?  It batters feebly at the window, but it can’t quite get in past all the sickly-sweet warbling.  And what kind of Dark Avenger could simply sit across the room, as poor Dazed Dexter does now, pretending to listen while mooning blearily on his chair?

Why, this must be a honeymoon – unfurling its marital banner across the living-room night, signaling for all to rally round, sound the charge, once more into the church, dear friends – because Dexter of the Deadly Dimples is getting married.  Hitched to the wagon of bliss pulled by the lovely Rita, who has turned out to have a lifelong passion to see Paris.

…  Can we really see a suddenly sober and simpering slasher at the altar of an actual church, in Fred Astaire tie and tails, slipping the ring onto a white-wrapped finger while the congregation sniffles and beams?  And then Demon Dexter in madras shorts, gawking at the Eiffel Tower and snarfing cafe au lait at the Arc de Triomphe?  Holding hands and trundling giddily along the Seine, staring vacantly at ever gaudy trinket in the Louvre?

Of course, I suppose I could make a pilgrimage to the Rue Morgue, a sacred site for serial slashers.

But let us be just a tiny bit serious for a moment:  Dexter in Paris?  For starters, are Americans still allowed to go to France?  and for finishers, Dexter in Paris?  On a honeymoon?  How can someone of Dexter’s midnight persuasions possibly consider anything so ordinary?  How can someone who considers sex as interesting as deficit accounting enter into marriage?  In short, how by all that is unholy, dark, and deadly can Dexter really mean to do this?

… Dexter can go through with this because he must, in part to maintain and even upgrade his necessary disguise, which prevents the world at large from seeing him for what he is, which is at best not something one would really like to have sitting across the table when the lights go out – especially if there is silverware present.  And quite naturally, it takes a great deal of careful work to make sure it is not generally known that Dexter is driven by his Dark Passenger, a whispery-silk voice in the shaded backseat that from time to time climbs into the front seat to take the wheel and drive us to the Theme Park of the Unthinkable.  It would never do to have the sheep see that Dexter is the wolf among them.

Dexter in the Darkby Jeff Lindsay, pages 5-7

Dexter Morgan is an attractive, charming blood spatter expert in the Miami Police forensics department.  He is engaged to sweet Rita, soon-to-be-step-dad to her two children Astor and Cody.  His sister Don’t-call-me-Debbie-Deborah is a Sergent in homicide, and uses her eldest-sibling status to order and bully Dexter (as much as one could bully him) around crime scenes and investigating the cases.  He is the son of legendary Harry, a now-deceased hero of the force, who taught fledgling Dexter all he knows and trained him in the Harry Code.  Oh yes… and Dexter is also host to what he calls “The Dark Passenger,” a sibilant voice that drives him in an urgent need to kill; Dexter Morgan is a serial killer.

Dexter in the Dark by Jeff Lindsay is the third in the Dexter series.  I first found out about the books when I watched Dexter, a television series now in its third season on Showtime.  After watching the first couple shows, I caught the book’s title and author in the end credits and ran to my local Waldenbooks… who, unfortunately, only carried Dexter in the Dark, and, even more to my woe, have closed their doors for good, leaving my town bookstore-less.

Scene from Showtime’s Dexter(the show is rated TVMA, and this clip is at least TV-14):

Because I have had the previous experience of the show, starting up with the third book wasn’t too traumatic a beginning.  The Dark Passenger isn’t mentioned much, if at all, in the TV show, and there were a few major curves as a result from events unknown to me as a result of lacking the information provided by the first two books… Dexter’s upcoming nuptials being a MAJOR surprise (I’ve only seen the first season thus far).  However, Lindsay does a fairly good job of catching the reader up to speed on these occasions, though I would definitely recommend reading them in order, instead, as the “getting-to-know-and-like-the-charming-serial-killer-good-guy” would be found in book one.

As far as writing style goes, I enjoyed Lindsay’s playful alliterations and snarky internal dialogue of the narrator:  I headed out the door for my date with Deborah’s paramour.(p. 272)  Lindsay also toes the line, and occasionally steps over it, with his near-offensive, non-P.C., perverse and irreverent humor, from the xenophobic, misogynistic rant of an elderly witness, to description of the intense and utter pain and agony felt by Dexter Downtroadden at the altar… awaiting his fate as if he were Dexter on Death Row.

I am looking forward to reading the rest of the Dexters, but I do want Darkly Dreaming Dexter next.   I think I’ve missed something by starting in the middle of the series, despite seeing the show.  It’s possible I would rate this book higher had I read them in order, as it is I’m going to give Dexter in the Dark by Jeff Lindsay 3 1/2 out of 5 stars.  I really did enjoy it, but felt it was lacking something (probably books 1 and 2).

Hope’s Boy by Andrew Bridge

Photobucket

TITLE: Hope’s Boy
AUTHOR: Andrew Bridge
PUBLISHER: Hyperion
PUBLISH DATE: 2008
ISBN: 9781401303228

My mother… wrapped her arms around me tightly, and whispered fircely several times, “You are my boy. Remember, you are my boy.”

-page 164, Hope’s Boy by Andrew Bridge

 

This is an emotionally difficult book to read. It is the story of a boy who leaves the loving stability of his grandmother’s care in Chicago to fly across country to live with his mother Hope, whom he barely knows. In the two years he lived with her he was beaten by his mother’s boyfriend, was taken on a burglary run by his mom and her best friend, watched Hope be raped and was powerless to stop it, evicted from an apartment and forced to live with strangers who looked at the two of them like something they’d scrape off their shoe, and finally to the motel where he was taken by the county from her. Of all the things she did and didn’t do, she DID give him love and made sure he knew he belonged to her.

Hope’s Boytears back the curtain of the life of a child trapped in a system that does little to help reunite families, explains little to nothing to the child in its care, and abandons him with empty promises of return with a family that is free to go unchecked in their abuse of the intruder in their home. A system that abandons those who age out to the winds, where thirty to fifty percent are homeless within two years. The majority of the nations 500 thousand plus foster children never graduate high school, and possibly as few as 3% graduate college. It is a broken system of hopelessness, in which children are wharehoused instead of cared for. This book is a clarion call to change.

My heart broke for young Andy. He endured helplessly watching his mother’s descent into madness, paranoid schizophrenia the most likely diagnosis. He is ripped from her arms by a social worker as a police officer shoves Hope to the ground and holds her there with his knee in her back. Wharehoused in a huge county orphanage that feels more like a criminal detention facility, he is placed with a family only after he has completely withdrawn into himself. He spends the remaining ten years of his childhood with an abusive, tyrant foster mother, whose rare kindnesses are few and far between.

Throughout it all, he hangs onto the few messages of encouragement like “You are my boy”, “Do not allow the world’s injustices define you”, and “You are my little genius”. Despite all this, and defying all statistics and odds, Andy, now Andrew Bridge, succeeds to become a Harvard Law graduate and Fulbright scholar.

This book is a must-read for anyone working with or within the foster care system. How we treat these children, children who have no control of the events of their lives, is an indicator of our civility as a nation.  Throughout the process, it must be remembered that LOVE is one of the most essential nutrients a child can receive.  Without it he will fail to thrive, slip through the cracks, and become just another statistic.

Love may not be enough to wake a child in the morning, dress him, and get him to school, then to feed him at night, bathe him, and put him to bed.  Still, can any of us imagine a childhood without it?

-page 295, Hope’s Boy by Andrew Bridge

The Sunday Salon -Book Overload!

The Sunday Salon.com

This last week has been a busy book-week. My middle daughter went to her dad’s the week before, leaving me with just my 15-year-old. She’s in summer school and can’t go to her dad’s until next weekend after S.S. is over. Then I’ll have about a week alone (since June 29th is my birthday, this will be a wonderful present!)

July 5th will see the return of my youngest, Photobucket who starts summer school on the 8th (High school and elementary take their SS at different times).
I’m kind of starting to miss the little bug. (Her nickname when she was younger was “Lady Bug”)

I finished four books this past week: The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson, Skeleton Crew by Stephen King, Two For the Dough by Janet Evanovich, and Cell by Stephen King. Six is the most I’ve ever read in one week, and Skeleton Crew was only the last third, but it’s still a lot of reading.

I’ve also been working on writing my novel. So much of the process is in figuring out how everything works together, not just the fapping the keys and filling the screen with words. It also seems my writing is having some sort of breakdown, incurring the red wrath of Bic more and more. Don’t care.. edit later… write now. I may have a title for it, also. Mirror Image maybe, but that is subject to change.

Last week I also learned never to underestimate the Mooch. In trying to scrape together the point to mooch a book I wanted, I added Skeleton Crew (I was only 2/3 the way through) and Two For the Dough (which I hadn’t even started). I figured since there was plenty of those available, mine would be safe and I could finish at leisure. WRONG! My Skeleton Crew wasn’t even the best copy available, but it was mooched from me. Go figure. So now I won’t post until I’m done (or at least certain I’ll be done in a day or so.)

For this week, I’ve already started reading Hope’s Boy by Andrew Bridge. It’s a heart-breaking memoir of a boy who went into the foster system in Los Angeles county at the age of seven. He’d been living with his grandma in Chicago and was loved, cared for, and secure. But when his mom got out of prison in California, she demands her mother (Andy’s Grandma Kate) to send him to her. There he’s beaten by her boyfriend, used in a burglary by his mother and her girlfriend, and ignored often. The book just makes me want to cry.

After Hope’s Boy, I want to read all my Austen’s in chronological order. I have wanted to do a Jane-a-thon for a couple months, but haven’t been able to. The week alone (hopefully!) will give me the chance to just read-read-read straight through. 😀