Seven books


1) Happy Hour of the Damned by Mark Henry. Reader, I lol-ed. This book isn’t for everyone: it has a very dark sense of humor. It’s raunchy and obnoxious, but the author made the protagonist real enough for me that went right along with it.

Setup: Bitchy ad exec Amanda Feral finds herself transformed into a zombie and has to learn to navigate the secret world of the supernatural.

It was a lot of fun, but the big drawback was the detective plot the book is structured around. At some point I’m going to have to do a post about horror plots and detective plots, and how much better UF would be if there were more of the former and less of the latter. And the detective plot is a drawback here. These bold and forthright characters should be mixed up in a supernatural version of DYNASTY or something, not a (funny) Simon & Simon. Still, a fun book.

2) Carry On, Jeeves (A Jeeves and Bertie Novel) by PG Wodehouse. I finally gave this a try. Setup: Extraordinarily capable valet solves his rich, feckless employer’s problems.

Reading Bertie Wooster’s voice was fun, but the stories didn’t hold my interest. I laughed while I read each story, but in between stories I didn’t have any urge to keep on. These are terrific books for a different reader.

3) & 4) Yotsuba &! Vol 6 and 7 I figured, after Volume 5, that I was going to burn out on these, but it just isn’t happening. Setup: Yotsuba is a five-year-old girl with a single father in modern Japan. That’s it. Like most kids, she’s a creature of intense emotion, and each chapter chronicles her exposure to some new everyday thing: Bicycles, milk, telephones. It’s all slice of life stuff.

Volume six was fun. Volume seven made me laugh like crazy several times. If you’re looking for comics that will just make you feel good, these are them. (They’re kid-friendly, too.)

5) Changes by Jim Butcher. The Dresden Files reaches book 12. Setup: This time it’s personal!

So, the Red Court vampires–the main baddy through the last several books–have kidnapped a daughter that Harry Dresden didn’t even know he had. They’re going to sacrifice her in a huge magic ritual which will kill Harry and have other mysterious effects that can only be puzzled out in the last 80 pages to give extra context to the final act battle.

Here’s the thing: It’s a terrific adventure story. Lots of battling impossible odds. Lots of battling. Tons of it, in fact. Almost too much. This book also brings back plot points from earlier novels–stuff that happened in much earlier books starts paying off now–not that I remember those earlier novels all that well. I don’t retain information like “workmen removed asbestos from Harry’s office in book whatever,” years after I read it. Things like that slide off my memory. For a while now, I’ve had trouble placing some of the recurring characters. With this one, though, the narrative handles that pretty well. I wasn’t lost once.

Also, the heroics have a much higher price for Our Hero this time. Harry can’t skate through with minimal losses on this one–the conflicts are too big and the choices are too hard. I loved that part of it. So it’s a terrific book, but don’t start here.

6) Chasing the Dragon by Nicholas Kaufmann. A slim, punchy horror novel with an urban fantasy flavor to it. Setup: A young woman, the last in a line of dragon slayers, hunts a very old, very nasty dragon. But it’s hard to fight monsters when you’re a heroin addict.

If the protagonist could speak to ghosts or was half-vampire or something, this would be a straight-up urban fantasy. Instead, her only power is the awesome ability to turn her own life into a flaming wreck. The creature she’s chasing across the American Southwest (the setting wasn’t terribly specific, as I remember) is strong, has terrible sharp claws, can raise the dead and breathes fire. It’s a CHILL villain turned extreme, and the story of the character’s battles with it is interspersed with flashbacks describing how she ended up in this life. I’ll admit that I saw part of the ending coming, but what the hell. I enjoyed it.

7) The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith. Setup: A woman opens a private detective company in her native Botswana.

OMG, the twee, I can’t stand it. I wanted to punch this book in its cutesy fucking mouth.