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R&R 131 | The Stupidest Angel

Aaaaand we're back! I'm going to do my best in 2012 to balance work & personal photography projects! Here's the first review for 2012! Yes, Christmas is over, but I didn't finish this book until after Christmas, which makes an untimely review acceptable. Make-up (and some photoshop to enhance the eyes and dead-looking skin) is inspired by Super 8's easy zombie make-up 😀

Christopher Moore
The Stupidest Angel: A Heart-Warming Tale of Christmas Terror
First published in: 2004
This edition: Orbit, 2007
ISBN: 978-1-84149-690-0
Genre: satire, fantasy
Pages: 243
Cover illustration by Steve & Sian Stone; design by Peter Cotton (LBBG)

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In a nutshell?

It was Christmas, 2011. I'd just finished reading a book, and being a complete Christmas buff, wanting to get in the mood, I wanted to read a Christmas book. What to do, what to do? I hadn't yet gotten around to ordering my intended read for the year's holidays, the newer version of Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris, which would contain 12 stories instead of the 6 that are included in my older edition. So I repeat: what to do, what to do?

Why, reread The Stupidest Angel by Christopher Moore, of course!

Joshua Barker hopes he doesn't get into too much trouble for not being home on time. As he tries his best to make his way home, he just wishes that he won't be punished too badly. When he witnesses Santa (also known as Dale Pearson: scumbag) being hit over the head with a shovel, and falling over lifelessly, Joshua realizes he's REALLY in for it now. Please please please, somebody, ANYBODY, make this go away. Bring Santa back to life?

Enter Raziel (of Lamb fame), a beautiful blonde hunk of angelic being, who's – unfortunately – as dumb as he is magnificently gorgeous. In search of a child on earth to grant one wish to ("a Christmas miracle!"), he figures, "Sure! Let's bring the dead back to life!"

So obviously crap really hits the Pine Cove fan. Theophilus Crowse (Pine Cove's sole police presence) already has his work cut out for him in a town full of crazies, which includes Theo's own wife Molly, former Z-list actress best known for her role as Kendra: Warrior Babe of the Outland, and her psychosis. Add zombies to that list, and it's really no wonder the poor guy is at a total loss. Luckily, he has help in the form of a heartbroken biologist, a Warrior Babe with bonus voice in her head, Santa's ex-wife, a pilot and a chatty fruitbat with pink sunglasses.

I first read this heart-warming tale of Christmas terror riiiiiight before I started the Reading & Reviewing project, Christmas 2007. I remember being at my inlaws' farm the day I read most of the book, and how Broer (Wil's dad) asked me, "what are you reading?" and I replied, "Oh , someone's killed Santa and there are zombies, too". And Broer, perplexed, just started giggling (he's a giggler), because that was an answer he wasn't expecting. I think prior to that day, Wil's parents must have (mis)taken me for a Very Serious Reader.

When I visited Wil's parents again on Christmas 2011, I told Broer I'd started reading 'the one about Santa' again, and his eyes twinkled as he remembered that I told him about it 4 years ago. How could you forget a book about Santa murderin's & zombies? There hasn't quite been a book like it yet, and that's pretty much what you can say about every single one of Christopher Moore's books, most of which deserve to be read at least 2 times.

The Stupidest Angel has been the first one I've reread, though, possibly because it was one of the first I read (I was a Moore-virgin until the summer of '07, when I read A Dirty Job) and the timing was right, also because it was Christmas… but also because I have a soft spot for Moore's Pine Cove setting and characters, originally from the book The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove. I feel Theo, Molly + narrator, Mavis and Gabe make up for the funniest group of characters yet, with awesome dialog and interactions. A great addition to the cast is Skinner the Dog; I think it's so funny how Moore will sometimes shift to Skinner's point of view: "Will that guy give me food?" It's an example of why I appreciate Moore's humor so much. He's just a tad silly, but in an unpretentious, brilliant and memorable way.

The Stupidest Angel is a delightful treat of a book: unconventional, ridiculous and funky. Buy it, read it and then put it in someone else's 2012 Christmas stocking, and when they've read it, ask to borrow it so you can read it again during Christmas 2013.

In a nutshell

Pros:
– It's really unforgettable & worth a reread
– Moore's best characters & setting are in this one
– Unconventional and original. Love that.
– Made of awesome: giggleworthy material aplenty

Cons:
– None! (You should know what you're in for with Christopher Moore.)

R&R 127 | House of Night 1: Marked

It's been ages; I've been busy with lots of other stuff and couldn't find the time for this project. I haven't even finished a book in the entire month of June. Seriously, that's how busy I've been. And I'll continue to be busy, but I have found a way to clear some time to continue the project, hopefully more regularly from here on out. Thanks for sticking with me during my 'neglectful' absence.

P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast
Marked (House of Night #1)
First published in: 2007
This edition: Atom Books, 2009
ISBN: 978-1-905654-31-4
Genre/keywords: young adult, vampires, supernatural
Pages: 306
Cover photography: Getty images; design by Cara E. Petrus

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It's just regular day at school for most Oklahoman teenagers. But not for Zoey Redbird. Zoey just got Marked. Which means Zoey is destined to be a vampire, and to attend the House of Night school. A challenge of a non-life time.

MARKED, the first book in THE HOUSE OF NIGHT series, has a bit of an abrupt opening; it starts with Zoey being "Marked" immediately. Granted, the book never drags on and doesn't get boring, but everything happens way too fast. I would've appreciated a better intro, as this is part one of a series, the perfect opportunity to introduce your series' back story properly, a back story I would have been interested in, as this is an atypical vampire lore story. Oh, sorry. It's 'vampyre' here. Sigh.

Using the archaic "vampyre" in such a modern book bothers me in the same way the use of the term "magick" does. I was doing a shoulder shake laugh when I read what the vampire who marked Zoey said (as he marked her): "Night had chosen thee! Thy death will be thy birth!" (etc. etc.) I found myself wondering, while only on page 4 of this book, whether I would regret this read. For an atypical vampire story, it's pretty cheesy at times.

My main problem with book, however, is the protagonist-slash-narrator. I'm not so much bothered by theMary Sue-ness of her. You know, the main character, female, unaware of own attractiveness, every boy drools at sight of her… Oh. And she's Very Speshul. At this point, with a lot of YA literature it's what you choose in a main character by choosing to pick up this type of series in the first place. By choosing the series, you choose the cliche.

I didn't choose Zoey's judgmental voice though. This book is obviously geared towards teenagers (so I wouldn't recommend it to adults), but at the same time Zoey's comments about Goths and emos and "Okies" and "girly-gays" can be very off-putting for these teens, those who would be interested in reading the HOUSE OF NIGHT series. They could very well find themselves judged by Zoey and thus the authors! Alienating a large portion of your audience isn't the best move to make. I was also bothered by Zoey's recurrent shallow remarks regarding the (only!) "unattractive" fellow fledgling with his carrot hair. I'm so tired of (us) gingers being singled out this way.

The book has its preachy moments, as well. At some point in the book there's a whole "drugs are bad mmmmkay?" speech and while I appreciate the message that the authors hope to send, e.g. don't drink and don't do drugs, a book about bloodsucking vamps is not the right forum. Zoey's judgmental voice already gets on one's nerves enough without the holier-than-thou attitude. Oh and a girl is a "slut" simply for making out with a boy (geeeez), yet the authors have no problem inserting a blowjob scene into the text early on and referring to it constantly in subsequent chapters. If you're going down the goody-goody road, be consistent and don't use sex to sell your story.

All of the above – combined with Zoey's speshulness – makes Zoey sound arrogant and unsympathetic. The authors, too.

Zoey's stance on language is also inconsistent: it's "hell" this and "hell" that, but she cannot bring herself to say "shit" or "crap" when referring to horse excrement. No. It's horse "poopie". Yes. Not even poo, but pooPIE. And women have boobies. It's like a three year-old is telling the story sometimes.
The worst has to be the humor, though, often used at unwelcome times. A prime example can be found during a rather pivotal / serious scene where Zoey is having an outer body experience after an injury to her head, and sees her body from above:

"And I/she didn't look good. I/she was all pale and her lips were blue. Hey! White face, blue lips and red blood! Am I patriotic or what?"
– p.42

I actually snorted and shook my head when I read this, because I couldn't really believe these authors for thinking this was funny or that teens are seriously like this. And to think one of the authors of the mother-daughter duo IS a teen. And how proud they are of sounding so teenaged-like (it's in their preface).

While a lot of YA-series are perfectly suitable for adult readers, I wouldn't recommend The House of Night to adults. It's over-the-top teenaged. Nothing resonates with me, nothing.
The series is also not for some religious people. The SOOKIE STACKHOUSE novels by Charlaine Harris also have a fanatic anti-vampire church, but Harris allows for plenty of grey areas. Sookie, for example, is a Christian girl and pro-vamp. THE HOUSE OF NIGHT: Pagan good, church bad.

What I did like about the series is the original aspects:
– The vampires worship the Goddess Nyx; it's vampirism meets wicca, paganism
– The way you become a vampire is not the traditional 'by being bitten'. I always appreciate a fresh take.
– Like the SOOKIE novels, vamps are out in the open.
– And it's about baby vamps going to a vampire school, although I think this is also being done in the VAMPIRE ACADEMY series by Richelle Mead, though I haven't yet read any of those books.

I also liked that plenty happened to keep a reader interested, though I will still say everything happens too fast (especially in that Zoey's too powerful, too soon).
Ah, it's suitable light reading; I acquired a bunch of light reads for the summer (backyard reads, equivalent of beach reads, but as I'm beach less…) and MARKED was one of them. Loud neighbors, bring it on. Is this a good series? Not really, I don't feel. But I've read worse.

(I may try the second book, but I'm not entirely sure yet.)