It’s time for Ketchup!

I need to come clean.  A while ago I was worried that I’d read too slow and I let myself accumulate a backlog of books in order to make sure that you didn’t have a big gap between posts.  Well, I think we all know that there was STILL a gap between posts and I gotta tell you, that backlog ain’t blogging itself.

So, I’d like to catch us up with some of the less memorable books in one large post.  I’d like to point out that less memorable doesn’t mean BAD, just means I can cover what I want to say in a smaller blip.  This means that we’re out of order but you should get better reviews of the newer stuff I’ve read.  And honestly, if I don’t catch us up, I’m going to start to get lost.

So, let’s get dippin!  (Ketchup, dip, get it?  ah.. nevermind)

*****

soul_identity_small Most people believe that their souls live on past their bodies, but what if there were a way to identify and track your souls progress across several lifetimes?  You’d be able to pass along things to your future ‘soul self’, building a bridge across the ages passing along wisdom and valuables.  Scott Waverly is a security expert and has been hired to protect the company from a suspected insider attack, but along the way he’ll need to figure out what he believes.

****

Not a bad book.  Bought it for a penny on the Kindle and it was worth a bit more than that.  Amazon is selling it in dead tree form for $10 and I like my price better.  It’s not a bad book but not the best.  This is one you could easily take on a plane and leave in the airport bathroom for someone else when you’re done.   Not that I’ve ever done that, but if you found a mediocre book in the ladies in the Little Rock airport, you’re welcome.

Soul Identity by Dennis Batchelder, 268 pages (per Amazon’s product page)

*****

little brother cover-small In the not too distant future, citizens are RFID’ed, computer networks are monitored and the illusion of privacy is just that – an illusion.  Marcus, aka “w1n5t0n”, is just a kid who likes to push the boundaries – putting pebbles in his shoes to fool the programs that identify you by gait and cracking the browser security on his school issued laptop.  When he and his friends are caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, Marcus gets a deep and dirty look at the inner workings of Homeland Security and the Government that is supposed to protect us all from harm.

What follows is a perhaps too logical path to a 1984- like societal monitoring that Marcus and his friends begin to question and, in doing so, begin to recognise that the only way freedoms can be taken is to stand by and do nothing.

*****

Free.  This book is free.  I’ve linked you all to a place where Cory has released this on a creative commons license for everyone to read.  So if you feel like it, go grab it and read it.  My personal take?  Honestly, I think it’s overdone.  I get it, we live in a world where fear has caused the general populace to put up with borderline personal rights intrusions.  And it’s a slippery slope.  Most people don’t complain about taking our shoes off at the airport (really.. are you safer, really?) but now there are x-ray scanners that can see beneath your clothes.  I believe that things like wiretapping under the guise of “safety” isn’t right, and so does Cory Doctorow, but this book practically beats you to death with it.

And I’m probably tired of him shilling it all over the place.  Anyway, I suppose it’s worth reading, but I can’t say that I’m buying it for everyone I know.

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow,  384 pages (per Amazon’s product page)

*****

Scarface’s Burden – Joseph Devon. No fancy artwork.  No page count (honestly it’s short.  Like… oh.. short).  But if you like Jonathan Coulton and you like the song “Skullcrusher Mountain” you will like this little story written by an oh-so-put-upon personal assistant to a mad scientist.

http://josephdevon.com/2007/11/29/short-story-scarfaces-burden/

*****

beautiful_red Meet Jack.  Office cube dweller working corporate security by day, technological tinkerer by night, Jack lives in a ever growing connected world.  People are constantly plugged into the web and one of her best friends she’s never actually even met.  But when she notices that someone has broken into her company’s computer system, she starts down an investigatory path that will lead her to the Reds – a group of people who don’t share her worldview.  As she investigates, she discovers a whole new perspective and is forced to examine her own beliefs.

*****

Good one.  Another creative commons license (which means free, folks), I first tried to get into this one when it was on Podiobooks.com.  Side note – Podiobooks.com is really cool.  Free serial audiobooks delivered to you weekly (or as the author writes the next chapter) and it’s a great way to find some new authors.  That’s how I found Scott Sigler (horror author) and a couple of others who are starting to hit mainstream.  Check them out, it’s pretty cool if you like audiobooks.

ANYWAY, Wehm has created a world that I think is (unfortunately) a pretty logical evolution of our own.  Personal interaction is much less important than the online world – in fact people have implants that let them be constantly on network.  But you know if that’s that case, there’s always going to be a faction that thinks that’s not night (get offa my lawn, you smoochers!!) and this book paints that resistance pretty well.  Plus, it’s got some nice little twists.

You can download it free on the link in the picture, it’s short so it’s worth reading if you have time.

Beautiful Red by M.Darusha Whem, 164 pages (per the download website)

*****

black dahlia Elizabeth Short was found brutally murdered in 1947 in an abandoned field.  After her death, she was known as the Black Dahlia.  Her killer was never found.   This novelization imagines the people who found her, the police who worked her case and what a strange and tangled web the Dahlia wove around the people she knew.

The story is seen through the eyes of Bucky Bleichert, an ex-boxer and current policeman, he finds himself drawn into the investigation.  His obsession with the Dahlia and her story threaten all the important things in his life, and in the end he learns something about himself – and perhaps more than he wanted about some people that he cares about.

*****

Ellroy is the master of this sort of writing.  A mix of truth and fiction, he’s woven a mesh of logic and almost unbelievable fantasy (not in that whole fairies and wizards way) into a story that feels like it could have happened that way.  Ellroy also wrote “LA Confidential” (which is somewhere in the “read me” stack) and both The Black Dahlia and LA Confidential have been made into really good movies.  I don’t know what that really says other than you can have a themed movie night if you read both of his books.  Or maybe it means that he writes compelling stories… and that I’d agree with.

(If you get the book with the afterward by the author, read it.  It’s worth it for an interesting insight into Ellroys relationship with the Dahlia… and it’s not what you think!)

The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy, 337 pages

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The Toxic Toadburger Conspiracy

toxiccover To date, 14-year old Eddy Tumble’s greatest triumph consisted of scoffing a ‘fat lad’ quarter-pounder in 39 seconds. A truly breathtaking feat which had decimated Graham ‘gobbler’ Griffith’s record by a clear three seconds and a slice of gherkin.

How ironic that only a few weeks later, a rogue roast potato in his windpipe caused Eddy to collapse unceremoniously into a large bowl of lukewarm bread sauce.

Brought back to life by a race of accident-prone aliens, Eddy now finds himself fighting the diabolically deranged owner of Gut Bucket Holdings, Marcellus Guzzle, a bloodthirsty hit-gran, and an unhinged magpie with an unhealthy appetite for inflicting pain.

Death would undoubtedly have been the easier option!

– From the back cover because, let’s face it, I’m not sure I could have written it better!

*****

So one day I was at Half Price Books, perusing the kids books (don’t judge) and came across one of the best TITLES for a book I’d ever seen – The Toxic Toadburger Conspiracy.  Then I looked at the cover and knew I had to own it.  I wasn’t disappointed with my purchase!  This is a damn silly book.

The premise is that a fairly average boy with an iron stomach needs to save the world from this horrible fast food man who has already managed to convince the world that we should be eating toads.  Yuck.  There are also some aliens, a hamster, some penguins (in some.. unexpected colors), various sealife and lots and lots of toads in this book.  Gotta tell you, they should make this into a Broadway play if only for the costumes they’d need!

Now, I dunno about how they work in the UK- where this book is from- but here in the US we don’t kill people in kids books.  Oh, wait, I know how they work in the UK – they *do* kill people in kids books!  Woo hoo!  I’d guess that you’d probably consider this a ‘young adult’ title, but let’s face it – the only people who want to read about toadburgers are kids or adults who frequently indulge their inner child.  Or who are ruled by their inner child.  Or something.  All I’m saying is that this isn’t really going to appeal to the “Gossip Girl” or “Twilight” crowd.  Maybe your 11 year old boy would like this one – as long as you don’t live near crows, toads or psychopathic Grandmas.

Is this the next great YA title?  Nah, it’s from 2005 so it’s obviously not.  But it’s lots of fun and heck, it’s got a great title.  Ha!

The Toxic Toadburger Conspiracy by Ian Hills, 365 pages

Published in: on April 21, 2009 at 8:56 am  Comments (6)  
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Ducklings

ducklings A duckling finds itself away from the flock and needs to get back to his family.  Will the frog help him or will he be subjected to the harsh realities of growing up in this modern world?

*****

I don’t want to give anything away but let’s just say that this entire book is filled with assholes and I found myself explaining some things to Jack that he shouldn’t have to know at such a young age.  Personally, I think that the characters in this book are childish and the overall plot was weak.  Although it did come with a bonus story about a pansy ducking afraid to swim (nice logic there, huh?) so at least you’re likely to get your money’s worth.

I suppose I’d read it again, but I wouldn’t have such high hopes for major developments this time around.

Ducklings, a three minute tale, by Paragon, 18 pages

Published in: on February 28, 2009 at 7:04 pm  Comments (6)  
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The Graveyard Book

graveyardbook The night was dark, the house was silent and the Everyman Jack was walking through with a knife, searching for the last member of the family he’d come to “dispose” of.  Little did he know that Nobody (or ‘Bod’ as he’s affectionately known) has managed to escape to the graveyard up the hill where the inhabitants are glad to take him in and teach them what they know.

And dead people know a lot.  They know how to fade into the shadows and see in the dark and they know of the creepies and crawlies that living people should stay away from.  But they don’t know how to protect him from the outside world and eventually even baby boys grow up.  And it seems like Everyman Jack’s have a long memory…

*****

Yay for kids stories!  Well, yay for Neil Gaiman kids stories!  Because only Gaiman would have a kids story contain more dead people and things than live ones.  I enjoy Gaiman’s work, and while I’m not sure I’d read this to a 3 year old, I’d probably give it to a 6 year old – which may be an indication that I’d be a pretty lousy parent.  I mean, after all, the story starts out with the entire family dying.  On the other hand, I remember having nightmares when I was a kid where my whole family had been captured and we were all on conveyor belts and our heads were bring chopped off.  Isn’t it strange how you always wake up when the blade is coming down on your own head?  But I digress (and it’s okay, I haven’t had that dream in YEARS!) and all I was trying to point out was that it’s pretty obvious that kids have some twisted imaginations.  Or maybe it was just me.

Gaiman has a way of making things that should be creepy, like ghosts and graveyards, into people and places that you’d like to meet and visit.  This book made me wish I could talk to dead people who could tell me tales about their lives.  I guess that’s what historical books are for, huh?  With the exception of the beginning and the ending, each of the chapters in this book feels like it’s own little self-contained story – which is kind of nice since it means that there’s a natural stopping point when you’re reading.  To your kids.  Who I’m sure won’t have nightmares from this one.  Now, the last Harry Potter – that’s an entirely different story.

This one’s a good Gaiman read – wait until the paperback comes out though because there’s no reason to own it hardback.  But make sure whatever copy you get (or borrow, natch) has the Dave McKean illustrations because they are really great.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, 307 pages

Published in: on February 18, 2009 at 10:12 am  Comments (2)  
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