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C. Fletcher (California)

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Nightmare House
Nightmare House
by Douglas Clegg
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
27 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars The bonus novella PURITY is Clegg's best effort..., July 7 2004
This book is well worth your time for the bonus novella PURITY alone. It's probably the best thing Clegg's ever written. An intense, extremely well written character study (almost reminiscent at times of the writing of John Irving) PURITY is a pure pleasure to read. I'd instantly recommend it to any horror fan out there, and any fan of good writing and good storytelling.
The main attraction, NIGHTMARE HOUSE, is also a good tale, but it didn't leave me breathless the way PURITY did. The second of three novels dealing with the haunted Harrow mansion (MISCHIEF and THE INFINITE fill out the trilogy) NIGHTMARE HOUSE is at times eerie and thrilling, but tends towards a softness of focus that keeps readers from being fully engaged in the characters the way they are in the laser-sharp PURITY.
Still NIGHTMARE HOUSE is a fine addition to Clegg's body of work, and I'm eager to read his new novel AFTERLIFE later this year.

Angels & Demons
Angels & Demons
by Dan Brown
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
218 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Running around Rome with Col. Mustard, May 13 2004
I work at one of the big chain bookstores, and literally every other customer who comes to the register nowadays has a Dan Brown book in his or her hands. It's almost rediculous. I think we've sold more copies of THE DA VINCI CODE this last month than Taco Bell has sold tacos.
So I found myself wanting to see what all the fuss was about.
From all of the enthusiastic customers talking about the books at the register, I knew that ANGELS & DEMONS is the Robert Langdon novel that comes before DA VINCI (and since it's already in paperback, I decided to start with it).
So, now that I've finally read a Dan Brown book, do I know what all the fuss is about?
Yes and no. ANGELS & DEMONS is a fun read. It's fast-paced, and highly cinematic in terms of plot and structure. It touches superficially on some compelling science vs. religion themes, but it ultimately doesn't demand much emotional or intellectual involvement from the reader. It's kind like a roller-coaster where all you have to do is sit down and strap yourself in and the ride takes care of the rest.
The weakness of Brown's characters was probably the most disappointing part for me. I'm willing to suspend my disbelief quite a ways as long as I feel real human eyes when I'm doing it. ANGELS & DEMONS is light on nuance and subtlety of character and heavy on stereotypes and broad exaggerations.
Brown made it just about impossible for me to like his protagonist somewhere near the beginning of the book when he described Robert Langdon point blank as a smart, handsome, athletic, well-liked guy. Whenever a writer tells you should like his character, rather than drawing you into making that conclusion on your own, you know you're in trouble.
But, still, despite the fact that I found most of the characters highly annoying, there was so little character work in the book, that I was able to just think of them as game pieces and enjoy the ride.
It doesn't make Clue any less fun, for instance, because you're not emotionally attached to Col. Mustard.
But I guess with a book, you tend to expect more. That's why I feel conflicted about ANGELS & DEMONS. It's fun, but it's not much more.

Dying Days
Dying Days
by Eric S. Brown
Edition: Paperback
7 used & new from CDN$ 36.30

4.0 out of 5 stars Nineteen autopsies, May 12 2004
This review is from: Dying Days (Paperback)
DYING DAYS is an impressive collection of short stories by a young writer from North Carolina named Eric S. Brown. A lifelong fan of horror novels and zombie movies, Brown first began publishing his short fiction in various online and print magazines in 2001. Since that time, Brown has managed to amass a sizable body of work. In the fall of 2003, Silver Lake Publishing released this collection (available in both print and electronic formats), which represents the best of Brown's work to date.

A connective sinew of narrative and stylistic similarities runs through the stories of DYING DAYS, making the collection read more like a short meditative novel rather than a group of independent stories.

In DYING DAYS, Brown reveals an almost morbid fascination with the ends of things. As a storyteller, he works with the post-mortem precision of a coroner, cutting through bone and laying bare gristle to reveal the grotesque mysteries hidden in inner cavities. Each story is like a mini-autopsy: you pretty much know from the get-go that all hope has long since been abandoned, but you're still morbidly curious to piece together the reasons why. Brown's stories allow the reader the perverse thrill of experiencing the life-affirming process of discovery within the contradictory medium of death.

Although the nineteen stories making up DYING DAYS are certainly all cut from the same cloth, Brown makes each story unique enough to keep the collection interesting. Probably most satisfying is the variety of emphases in stories with a common theme. With end-of-the-world stories such as the titular "Dying Days" and "The Return," Brown dissects the corpse of the large, and with stories such as "Preservation of the Species," which focuses on the death of identity and perception, he also trains his scalpel on the corpse of the small.
Eric S. Brown is a talented young writer, with hopefully much great work ahead of him. In the stories that make up DYING DAYS, Brown reveals a focused ability to tease out a single theme, and also shows himself surprisingly capable, for a new writer, of handling the heavy machineries of plot and suspense with something like old-hat panache. DYING DAYS is by no means a perfect work. Some of the stories could have benefitted from more detail to character, but this is something Brown can perfect in his future stories and novels. He obviously has the drive and desire to keep creating better fiction, and DYING DAYS stands as a testiment to how far he's already come in such a short time.

Maus II: A Survivor's Tale: And Here My Troubles Began
Maus II: A Survivor's Tale: And Here My Troubles Began
by Art Spiegelman
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 14.71
87 used & new from CDN$ 2.13

5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, May 12 2004
The brilliant continuation of the MAUS story, I think I enjoyed the second part even more than the first. It's in this book that Spiegelman really brings out the connection between what happened then in Europe and what is happening now in America.

This is a more interesting part of the story from a character standpoint. The relationship between Art and his father Vladek is painted in its most frustrating and endearing tones in this volume. An amazing piece of historical fiction, and even better feat of interpersonal storytelling.

Sunset and Sawdust
Sunset and Sawdust
by Joe R. Lansdale
Edition: Hardcover
25 used & new from CDN$ 1.72

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sunset herownself, May 5 2004
This review is from: Sunset and Sawdust (Hardcover)
By this time in his career, Joe R. Lansdale has certainly worn a comfortable groove in his storytelling saddle. SUNSET AND SAWDUST reads very much like other novels Lansdale has published in recent years (notably The Bottoms and A Fine Dark Line-two other recent non-Hap 'n' Leonard novels). The humor, the atmosphere, the plotting, and the East Texas vernacular are all quintessentially Lansdale. If you're a returning reader, you'll find yourself right at home for another stay (much too brief though it may be) with your favorite mojo storyteller.

What gives SUNSET AND SAWDUST some extra kick, however, is a sense that even if Lansdale has covered similar territory in the past, he's still examining it with a hungry and restless eye. His use of a female protagonist, the redhead constable Sunset Jones, might be just the ingredient that keeps SUNSET AND SAWDUST so fresh and unpredictable. Lansdale has always written convincing female characters, but it's fun to see him examine the whole boy-girl thing from the other side of the fence.

The enduring Lansdale theme of people with power behaving badly towards people without it is at play once again in SUNSET AND SAWDUST. But the main character, the recently self-widowed redheaded constable who is on the lookout for a killer and also a moral center, helps muddy up that notion quite considerably.

There's also an arsenal of well written supporting characters in SUNSET AND SAWDUST that helps keep the novel well balanced and fun to read. A noticeable progression in some of these characters' front porch philosophizing adds to the overall adventurousness of the novel. SUNSET AND SAWDUST doesn't just sit there. . .it reaches out into the dark and does its damndest to grab hold of something.

And it succeeds. I've been a fan of Joe R. Lansdale's writing for almost fifteen years now, and I'm happy to say that he's just getting better at what he does. As a writer, it's always a challenge to remain true to one's evolving self, and with SUNSET AND SAWDUST Joe has risen to that task admirably. The saddle might be well worn and comfortable, but Lansdale certainly hasn't fallen asleep at the reigns.

Maus I: A Survivor's Tale: My Father Bleeds History
Maus I: A Survivor's Tale: My Father Bleeds History
by Art Spiegelman
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 14.85
92 used & new from CDN$ 3.04

5.0 out of 5 stars Profound. . .and surprisingly entertaining, May 5 2004
MAUS surprised me. Before I read it, I expected I might admire and respect it as an important comic, but I figured the subject matter was altogether too heavy and serious to permit it to be in the least bit enjoyable.
Boy, was I was wrong. MAUS is not only a an amazing use of the comic idiom-an affecting chronicle of what is surely THE most uncomical event in the 20th Century-it is also a gripping and psychologically astute portrait of a family tottering on the sizable wake of that event.
Art Spiegelman has managed to create something equally important and entertaining with MAUS. If you've been scared away by the heaviness of the subject matter, don't let yourself be. It's heavy, for sure, but it's also a great bit of storytelling.

The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory
The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory
by Brian Greene
Edition: Paperback
94 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The science of wonder, May 5 2004
I have to credit Brian Greene. He did what I thought was the impossible: he got me interested in science. I've been a liberal arts-type since I can remember. The exact rules and laws of science always left me kind of cold, and so I found myself drawn to literature, poetry and music as the more complete descriptors of human experience.

But last Fall, I couldn't sleep one night and ended up staying up until dawn watching THE ELEGANT UNIVERSE. It was amazing and captivating. It got me excited in a way "science" hadn't since I was a kid, fascinated with the imaginative possibilities of space travel.

I was hooked and had to get the book. The tv program proved to be a great distillation of the book, but if you saw the program and your interest was piqued by the magical dance of superstrings and the mind-bending extra dimensional possibilities, you'll enjoy the full feast of Greene's book even more.
THE ELEGANT UNIVERSE is an enormous feat. It marries the rigor of scientific enquiry with the elegant, at times poetic, presentation of literature. Greene is such an able and down-to-earth explainer of complicated mathematical concepts that he makes even the most dyed-in-the-wool math hater think about signing up for some evening classes at the local college.

Hellboy Volume 1: Seed of Destruction
Hellboy Volume 1: Seed of Destruction
by Mike Mignola
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 18.77
41 used & new from CDN$ 9.79

4.0 out of 5 stars Well done, April 26 2004
Okay, I just read picked this up because the movie was coming out, and I'm one of those people who does that (as probably are many of you reading these reviews). But I found myself thoroughly enjoying Mike Mignola's HELLBOY.

This first HELLBOY book is a little on the short side, and at times, Mignola probably gives too much attention to the mythology rather than the characters, but all in all it's a fun read.

It's not my favorite comic I've read (definitely not in the Alan Moore category) but it's fun and well worth your time.

The artwork is definitely top notch. Even if the story were no good (but it is good) it would be worth getting to look at.

Now that the movie's out (which was also very entertaining and worthy of your time) I'm sure I'll keep reading the rest of the series.

Happy reading!

From Hell - New Cover Edition
From Hell - New Cover Edition
by Alan Moore
Edition: Paperback
29 used & new from CDN$ 34.00

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely amazing, April 26 2004
I was absolutely amazed by the depth and quality of Alan Moore's FROM HELL. I've been reading graphic novels for a little over a year now, and in terms of subtlety, nuance, and overall storytelling, FROM HELL is head and shoulders above anything else I've read. I'm currently reading Moore's WATCHMEN, which also seems to be of equal quality.

I've never experienced anything close to what FROM HELL delivers in the admittedly short time that I've been reading comics. Alan Moore writes with the ear of a novelist and the eye of a portraitist. He packs this well-researched story of the Jack the Ripper murders with a wide and observant representation of life.

This graphic novel isn't just a retelling of the facts of the Jack the Ripper case (though it does an extraordinary job of that). It takes it all to the next level, and examines the reasons for examining such things.

It's not so much a suspense story (you know who the killer is right from the beginning) but rather one of internal discovery. A fascinating work of art and work of literature that should be read by anyone who wants to see just what comics are capable of.

From the Corner of His Eye
From the Corner of His Eye
by Dean Koontz
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
46 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars Probably my least favorite Koontz, April 26 2004
I've been reading Dean Koontz for nearly twenty years, and I hate to say that this is definitely my least favorite of his novels.
I just couldn't relate to the goodiness of the characters. It's like they're not even human.
It just feels like there's nothing to connect to here. Koontz has written believable characters with good intentions in the past, but it just feels like he lost all sense of what makes a character sympathetic and likable--it has much more to do with the flaws than the perfection.
I'll keep reading, though, in hope that Koontz will get it right again soon.

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