Book Review: The Scourge: Nostrum by Roberto Calas

In these times of madness, only madness will save us.

Zombies, knights, hilarity, Sir Tristan.  I’m in love….

nostrum

This is the second book in The Scourge Series by Roberto Calas, here is my review for book one.

Here is the synopsis from Amazon:

Sir Edward Dallingridge survived his journey through the anarchy that is now England, leaving in his wake the bodies of mad lords, foul invaders, friends, and the risen dead. There was nothing on earth that could keep him from the woman he loves.

Nothing but the horror that has already consumed her.

His journey is over, but his mission is far from complete. As a knight of the realm, he has defended England from every enemy it has. But how does one drive away a plague sent from hell? His only hope lies in the rumors of a cure–a treatment concocted by a strange man on an island fortress. Edward will do everything in his power to find this alchemist and to bring Elizabeth back from the walking terror she has become.

This book is again a serial, and is a bit darker, considering  the end of the first book.  The adventure continues for Sir Edward and Sir Tristan, but with the addition of others such as Belisencia, a “nun” they come across in their journey.  Her presence adds some much needed female comic relief and her interactions with Sir Tristan are hilarious.  And again, Christianity and the church are often the butt of the jokes:

“Barbaric?” Tristan asks. “And why are they any more barbaric than Christians?”

Belisencia scoffs and looks away.  “There’s no sense talking to you about it.”

Tristan laughs.  “Go on, tell me.  I would like to know what’s more barbaric than drinking the blood of our savior every week.  Or eating his flesh.” He laughs again and sweeps his hand to encompass the countryside.  “Maybe all of these plaguers are just good Christians that got carried away.  They’re drinking everyone’s blood.  Maybe they are more devout than any of us.”

I love how the zombie apocalypse in medieval England pretty much mirrors the zombie apocalypse in every other time period and part of the world that I’ve read.  Makes me think that no matter where or when, humans are humans and will probably devolve to their baser elements when the fabric of society is torn apart:

The afflicted are not the worst thing about this new England. Plaguers are hungry and desperate.  I understand those motives.  What, then, are the motives of the survivors?  Power?  Avarice? Cruelty? Of the two groups, the unafflicted survivors are the greater threat.  I am uncomfortable with what this implies about my kind.

Like I said in my earlier review, I know NOTHING about this time period, outside of what I’ve seen in Monty Python.  And this reminds me much of Monty Python.  But Mr. Calas is very gifted at understanding that not all of us readers know what a bevor (?) is, and works very diligently to make sure we aren’t completely lost.  He makes all of the knight stuff palatable.  And funny:

Every priest dreams of sainthood.  Every merchant dreams of riches.  And every knight, no matter how much he may deny it, dreams of slaying a dragon.  It is in our blood. Tristan and I nearly knock each other to the ground in our haste to reach the creature.

Another feature I love of these books, maybe it is just a serial thing, is the historical notes at the end.  Mr. Calas has done extensive research into his writing.  Sir Edward was a real person with a real castle.  A good number of the events were based in some sort of reality.  Even the dancing mania AND the dragon (you have to read about it).  I truly appreciate these types of works that are based in some sort of reality.  And then the author just runs with it.

Again, I highly recommend this series.  Fulfills my zombie requirement, humor requirement, history requirement all in one book.  A must read.  I can’t wait to see how it all ends.

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Book Review: I Heart My Little A-holes by Karen Alpert

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I have been a huge fan of the author’s Facebook page, Baby Sideburns, for about a year now.  I had to get the book..

Here is the synopsis:

When your son wakes you up at 3:00 A.M. because he wants to watch Caillou, he’s an a-hole. When your daughter outlines every corner of your living room with a purple crayon, she’s an a-hole. When your rug rats purposely decorate the kitchen ceiling with their smoothies, they’re a-holes. So it’s only natural to want to kill them sometimes. Of course you can’t because you’d go to prison, and then you’d really never get to poop alone again. Plus, there’s that whole loving them more than anything in the whole world thing. Karen Alpert is the writer of the popular blog Baby Sideburns. You may have seen some of her more viral posts like “Ten Things I Really F’ing Want for Mother’s Day,” “Daddy Sticker Chart” and “What NOT to F’ing Buy My Kids this Holiday.” Or you may know her from her Facebook page that has over 130,000 followers. I Heart My Little A-Holes is full of hilarious stories, lists, thoughts and pictures that will make you laugh so hard you’ll wish you were wearing a diaper. 

I have one six year old daughter.  ONE.  If we ever have another, she can probably help me care for it.  I have no clue how parents deal with two kids in diapers at the same time (Hi Beth and Aimee!).

This book reminded me of the crazy things my child does on a daily basis.  Even though she is out of the “I will destroy everything” phase, she is still pretty hilarious.

But nothing compares the the stories in this book.  I am so glad I read it when my husband was on night shift, or else I would have been waking him up every few minutes laughing hysterically.  Or from peeing the bed.

I especially loved her thoughts on Caillou.  I still hate Caillou.

I do understand that some people have difficulty referring to their kids as a-holes.  It doesn’t bother me.  Because This past week, my daughter has woken up before dawn EVERY MORNING (eff you daylight savings).  She regularly hides food in her room and creates “science experiments”.  I won’t even mention the hell that I go through trying to brush her hair in the morning.

I worry about the parents that don’t acknowledge that parenting isn’t all rainbows and unicorns.  They are delusional.

Overall, a hilarious read that all parents can definitely relate to.

Book Review: The Snitch, Houdini and Me

9870994The Snitch, Houdini and Me: Humorous Tales of Death-Defying Childhood Misadventure (2010) by Johnny Virgil (JV Enterprises, 2010)

Genre: memoir, humor

I received a free digital copy of this book from the author through BookBloggers in return for an honest review. If you would like to know more about Johnny Virgil, check out his blog, 15  Minute Lunch.

Amazon describes Virgil’s memoir…

“Go Out and Play and Don’t Come Home until it’s Dark.”

Growing up in the 70’s wasn’t easy. No internet or smartphones, video games or HDTV — nothing but time to kill and the endless potential of a summer day. Only parental threats and a newly-developed sense of right and wrong could steer Johnny Virgil and his two younger brothers away from trouble…or directly into it.
 
Join Johnny on this hilarious and irreverent romp through his childhood as he recounts the stories that made him what he is today – an unimportant cog in a vast, corporate financial services machine. But he wasn’t always this way, and this book is proof.
Booby traps, severed deer legs, runaway bulldozers, young love and fresh cow pies — all this and more, brought to life by Johnny’s sometimes twisted, sometimes touching but always hilarious tales of suburban childhood. If you have kids of your own, these are the stories you don’t want them to read.  If you like to laugh even when it’s wrong and long to return to a more innocent yet treacherous time, this book will leave you wishing Johnny’s childhood had never ended.

When I signed up to review this book, I knew it was right up my ally. I grew up with three younger brothers, two older male cousins, two additional male kids of close family friends and tons of boys at my annual summer camp, which was a big prankfest. Talk about shenanigans! I was prepared for this book…or so I thought. I was amused at the stories Virgil shared, and felt that I was an observer of those events. I highly recommend this book!

If you are a mother, especially of boys or a daughter who was a tomboy, read this book. If you’re a boy (over the age of 21 so as not to get any “bright” ideas), read this book.

If you spent your childhood days growing up pre-2000, read this book. It will bring memories flooding back…and maybe provide some pointers or ideas you never dreamed of fulfilling to scare the beejezus out of that big kid bully.

If you ever feared being “in deep shit,” read this book. Warning: the farther in you read, the more adult the language becomes.

This book is hilarious throughout, with never-ending shenanigans and covert missions, usually involving one of Johnny’s two younger brothers, The Snitch or Houdini, their neighbor Markie or best friend The Slug. Virgil shares some stories that could have been disastrously dangerous for his little band of boys. He is very keen to point out he doesn’t know how he survived childhood without killing himself, or someone else, at every opportunity. And he’s right: after reading some of the boys’ grand schemes, you will be surprised to know they usually escaped supreme and disastrous trouble usually unscathed, with only a few cuts.

Johnny and his gang didn’t have the best of everything from back in the day. They didn’t get what they wanted. They essentially had hand-me-down bikes that came home as a box of bike parts. Yeah. The kid down the street had a mouth-watering go-kart…so Johnny and the boys created their own version, and they were happy with it.

Throughout this collection of stories, readers can watch Johnny grow up from the leader of two little brothers through that awkward teenage stage, learning about girls and dating, cars, and eventually a few excursions with the bottle. Included in the beginning chapters are drawings Johnny did as a child in grade school, and one or two photos.

Virgil shares a time when being a kid was OK, but when you cross the line there are consequences from your parents. Neighborhood kids with tag-along siblings, generally left to their own devices during summertime. Friendly-fire neighborhood gangs battling over turf, sometimes just on principle. The fear of getting in trouble. It’s something that’s rarely seen today, back when a pinky swear meant something.

-CA

Book Review: Midlife Mouse by Wayne Franklin

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I truly adored this book. The concept is hilarious and brilliantly executed. Mr. Franklin’s dry wit is right on target. I can see how many readers of different genres will love this book.

First let me state that I love Disney. I’m not obsessed with Disney, but I know people like that. My mother took myself and my daughter to Disney World in Orlando to celebrate my daughter’s 5th birthday in December of 2011.

Anyplace has to be interesting when they let you dress your child like this..

Anyplace has to be interesting when they let you dress your child like this..

Although I had been there before as a teenager, the entire “magic” thing was even better with my own child.
That said, you don’t necessarily need to have been to the parks to like this book. Although it may help. Some of the “Disney Magic” is best explained when you have been there in person.

The plot. Ok, it starts off with a standoff. He is holed up in a room at one of the resorts at Disney with his nine year old daughter and a S.W.A.T team outside. And the rest of the book goes back in forth in time attempting to explain what brought Bill Durmer to that exact moment in time.

As the book goes on, the trip Bill took with his family to Disney World six months prior is rehashed. Apparently some very weird things happened to him while he was there that defy explanation. People seemed to know his name, his family got an upgrade to a suite at the Grand Floridian and he felt he was being watched.

Six months later he is pretty much at the bottom. He just closed his family’s store, a wonderful nautical event that his town celebrates every year is ruined, and he’s turning 40.

And he starts receiving cryptic messages via email. Through the movie Beauty and the Beast (which he watched four times in one night) he believes he should move to Disney World. Not next to it, INTO it.
He leaves in the middle of the night, taking his oldest daughter with him.

mickey3

“It’s a Small World” plays a pivotal role in the book..

Then things get even weirder. He gets a job as a bus driver, he is kidnapped (by Snow White) and he meets some very interesting individuals. Apparently there is some sort of prophecy and he might fulfill. He hears from multiple (granted, eccentric) individuals “You have a grander purpose, Bill Durmer. It’s time to find it.”

Bill continues to try and put the pieces of the puzzle together. And that’s when the stand-off takes place.
I don’t want to get into more detail because I don’t want to spoil it.

The plot is imaginative and feeds off of real-life Disney lore. I am actually planning on reading the biography of Walt Disney in the near future as a result of reading this book.

Mr. Franklin manages to tie in a very public, very powerful worldwide entertainment company into this book. In fact, the whole concept of “Disney” can be considered a distinct character throughout. And I hope he doesn’t get sued. The fact that Disney tried to recently copyright the term “Dia De Los Muertos” comes to mind.

mickey4

The characters are rich and very developed. I’m thinking mainly of Bill’s sister Nancy. I know people like her (and am related to some of those people).

Bill himself is very developed, and the reader is privledged to watch him learn about himself and his abilities.

I also love the relationship between Bill and his wife. They truly do love each other, and sometimes in popular literature, more is written about infidelity and dysfunctional families than the ones that truly are making it work. The love that Katherine feels for Bill is palpable. She wants to see him succeed and live his dream, and if that means sneaking off to live at Disney World in the middle of the night, then so be it.

This book is hilarious. The sarcasm and wit reminded me of one of my favorite authors, Rob Kroese (especially in Mercury Falls). I can actually see people saying things like “I will not tolerate: blaspheming the good Lord and speaking ill of the Mouse!”

Overall, this book is a very good, very lighthearted read. I highly recommended to anyone who enjoys an imaginative plot mixed with a study of relationships and middle life.

My favorite pic from the vacation

Kiddie Lit

Looks exciting!!

The first book I learned to read on my own was Fox in Sox by Dr. Seuss. I haven’t read it probably since that time. I vaguely remember that the world seemed to “turn on” once I learned how to read. Suddenly, every thing around me seemed to make more sense. I don’t know how to explain it in any more detail than that. It was like going from regular TV to HD. And I haven’t let up since.

More about my early reading experiences can be found on the About section.

My daughter is now of the “learning to read” age, and they are teaching it very differently in school. I never learned “sight words”. I don’t know if it was because I was in Catholic schools, but we did strictly phonics. My daughter is in public schools, and they are doing a combo of both, “sight words” and phonics. Either way, she is doing very well.

I remember having Rainbow Brite books on tape, and reading along with tape when I was a kid. Now it seems like kids have no end of electronic pens, iPad apps, etc to help them learn to read. I don’t know if it was a combo of school or us reading to her or her patching things together on her own, but she is learning to read quite rapidly.

Makes me think about the books I loved as a kid and the ones she loves right now.

I loved the Dr. Seuss books. I loved the way the words just rolled off my tongue. I loved the way it didn’t make sense, but then it did. Hop on Pop; Red Fish, Blue Fish; The Cat in the Hat; I loved the world of Dr. Seuss as a kid. My daughter has a few of those titles, hasn’t started to read them  herself yet, but she loves it when I read it fast and then sound silly. That’s my girl.

I loved the Bernstein Bear books. And Little Critter. I don’t have any for my daughter, but the Bernstein Bears are now a cartoon series on Sprout.  Oh, and Little Golden Books.  I loved those books.  Cheap, easy to read, but don’t hold up well over time.

I love the books by Jamie Lee Curtis for my daughter. We have When I Was Little..; It’s Hard to be Five; and my fav Big Words for Little People. I like the way they are written with humor and illustrated in a way that really sinks in for her.  Who thought a teen scream queen would turn into an awesome children’s author?

My daughter’s favorite book right this second is Silverlicious by Victoria Kann. She wants this one read to her 24/7. I’m trying to get her to read some of it on her own, and she is getting there. Maybe Santa will turn into a librarian this year.

I have no idea what other book series there are out there for little kids these days.  All of my friends have younger kids, and mostly boys.  I am hoping to acquire a Kindle Fire for Christmas so I can download free books for her as well.  Not that I can’t already do that on the Kindle I have, its just that its not in color and the gray scale really won’t cut it for her.

Any suggestions on first reading series for beginning little girl readers??

The Real World: Memoir

The first true events or memoir type book I read was The Diary of  a Young Girl by Anne Frank.  That book shook me to the core.  In school, you learn bits and pieces about WWII and the Holocaust.  I read about Anne Frank when I was in middle school, and I couldn’t believe what had happened to her.  Later in high school as a junior, part of a semester was devoted to Holocaust literature (Primo Levi, Eli Weisel) and culminated in a trip to the National Holocaust Museum in D.C..  That was an education.

I don’t have any particular type of memoir that I look for when I’m browsing, if it catches my eye, I’ll bite.  Assuming that the writer is being completely honest, they are putting themselves out there for examination, and you have to admire that.  Seldom are memoirs published about regular, everyday people who have everyday lives and are doing the right thing.  Most memoirs are written by people who have screwed up a bit, even if they aren’t in the public eye.  Accepting responsibility for those actions, in print, and in a location where everyone in your family, town, and the world can read is pretty ballsy.

Famous people memoirs:

Other than Anne Frank (who became famous as a result of her diary), I have read a few famous people memoirs.  What is the appeal?  I don’t particularly like the paparazzi and the TMZ crap, but my husband is a rock n roll encyclopedia.  He argues that he was born in the wrong decade.  I, on the other hand, came into this relationship without such an education.  I know the music if I hear it, but only recently have I begun to tell the difference between the wailing of Robert Plant and Steven Tyler.  Or the guitar expertise of Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan (blasphemy coming from a Texan).  And it doesn’t help that Stevie covered Jimi.  And that Jimi often covered Bob Dylan.

Music is a very important part of my relationship with my husband, has always been since we were teenagers, and when the older gents started writing down their memories (while they are mostly intact), I decided reading them might help me out a little.

I have read Keith Richard’s  (and James Fox)”Life”.  It is well written and it does read like you are having a conversation with “Keef”.  I am not a huge Stones fan, I never really listened to them before seriously being with my husband, but I enjoyed reading this book.  I enjoyed reading how he came up with some of the signature sounds on particular songs, how he had the idea for lyrics and parts of songs.  I can’t do it (songwriting or instrument playing), so it is fascinating to me.  And the anecdotes about his legal issues, drug use, and affairs were amusing as well.  Keith owns up to his drug use, relationship issues, etc.  I admire that.

I have also read Steven Tyler’s “Does the Noise in My Head Bother You?”:  A Rock and Roll Memoir.  It is not credited with another person as a writer.  As much as I enjoyed the same things I enjoyed while reading about Keith Richards, it was like Steven was holding things back, or glossing over parts.  I knew considerably more about Aerosmith as they enjoyed a comeback during the 90s on MTV and I am a part of that generation.  I just expected a bit more…honesty?

Non-famous people (yet) memoirs:

Browsing through the Kindle books one day I came across this gem:  Dying for Triplicate: A True Story of Addiction, Survival and Recovery by Todd Zalkins.  It intrigued me because as a nurse, I come across addiction, particularly prescription pill addiction, all the time.  I once worked in a pain clinic and my daily duties included looking out for patients that were diverting or who were abusing their medication.  This memoir is about a young man who had severe addiction issues.  He starts in childhood and with his early memories of drugs and alcohol.  He describes how the addiction started: he had an injury, they gave him a powerful pain killer.  He got addicted.  He tried rehab several times, but again relapsed.  He describes exactly what happens when a person is addicted to these powerful substances, that are intended to be prescribed to cancer patients, but are being prescribed for back pain.  His descriptions of the behavior he engaged in, the methods he used and why he did it, how he recovered has actually helped me in my practice as a nurse to understand the addiction process.

In the same category of drug books, Closet Full of Coke: A Diary of a Teenage Drug Queen by Indra Sena, piqued my interest.  I also posted my thoughts about this book on my post about books that haunt me.  As I was a child through the entire 80s, I know nothing about the “War on Drugs”, other than they had a bunch of assemblies at school and we got stickers that said “Say NO to drugs”.  Right.  This memoir had me completely hooked.  Written as a type of journal or diary, it is sad and did make me cry a few times.  I could not believe that this girl, at her age, could do what she did and no one really cared.  At 15, she is basically abandoned by her parents and is forced to find her own income.  As she had been selling “uppers” at school for a few years already, she meets a dark and handsome man at her regular dealer’s house who promises her that he has a new product that can make her rich.  Cocaine.  And so begins a whirlwind of dealing, dancing, spending, trips to Florida, evading the police.  Totally had me mesmerized from start to finish.

Not a sad memoir! I picked this one up via bookbloggers.net.  The Snitch, Houdini and Me: Humorous Tales of Death-defying Childhood Misadventures by Johnny Virgil.  I often look for books that will make me laugh or smile instead of war, zombies, and the apocalypse.  This was exactly what I was looking for.  Even though the author is much older, I did find similarities that I guess are universal when you grow up in suburbia.  I will come out right now and identify myself as a Snitch, or in my family, Squealer.  To this day, I don’t know how it happens, but I still Squeal.  My brother is Houdini and the author mixed into one.  I loved all of the stories provided by the author, especially the ones about snooping for Christmas presents, his death defying feats (that is my brother), and war on the teenagers.  They really could have killed someone.  I’m not sure if I would have said that last sentence if 1) I wasn’t a nurse and 2) I wasn’t a mother. Overall, extremely funny and made me nostalgic for my childhood.

I decided to exclude any historical memoirs because then this post would be much, much longer than it already has become.  Another post for another day.

And don’t get me started on the non-fiction.

I read all 🙂

Book Review: Memoirs of the Walking Dead

Memoirs of the Walking Dead

I reviewed a very creative and fun zombie book this past week. Memoirs of the Walking Dead: A Story from the Zombies Point of View by Jason McKinney is an incredible book. Again, I reviewed via bookbloggers.net, I am not paid for the review, although I am allowed to receive the book for free.

This book follows the life and unlife of Paul. He caught the flu while out at a club when a chick barfed on him. He woke up a few days later…dead. His cat also died…and woke up. The book goes into extreme detail about what it is like to wake up dead. The rigor setting it, how to start moving again. The odor (kind of funny how they don’t mention that on my favorite TV show about zombies) and the hunger. New abilities and senses that aren’t afforded to the living. Then the book basically chronicles his time as a zombie.

In this book, the zombies are granted speech, their previous memories, and brain function, although some difficulty with speech, word finding, etc. He actually is dictating the book to the author who is supposedly his “slave” and is “chained to a desk”, the scribes anecdotes are hilarious. The dictating zombie also has a conscience and finds it distasteful to eat people he knows or innocents.

I loved the accounts of how the U.S. government reacts to the zombies, and the zombies reaction in kind. I also found certain sequences, for example, Paul’s return to work, incredibly funny and a commentary on state government bureaucracy.

Paul finds love at a feeding. Its nice to find out that zombies can find love too, over a dead body they are in the process of consuming. Ewww. The drama of Paul and Tracy continues throughout the book. I personally think he can do better, but I guess your options are limited when you are undead.

Overall, I found the book engrossing, fun and imaginative. A must read for any zombie-phile as I don’t think many books have been completely written from this point of view and to this depth.

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