Wednesday, May 22, 2013

What I'm Reading: Zombies, Asteroids, Murder, and John Quincy Adams

Two irresistible books showed up in the mail yesterday. I think I've overindulged in review books (again!) and am going to have to have a serious sorting session to focus on just one (or two) at a time. That partly accounts for the fact that I have far too many books partially finished. But when you've looked through these, I think you can see why I have a hard time settling on just one!

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie WarWorld War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is my 3rd reading of World War Z, this time via the new unabridged audiobook version (review copy from SFFaudio, God bless 'em!). I had the previous audio version but never could make myself listen to it because I knew it was abridged.

I wondered how the documentary-style story would hold up with so many different voices taking up the tale in turn. Thus far, on chapter 3, the answer is that I now admire even more Max Brooks' talent in weaving these voices together to make a suspenseful story. I didn't think I could admire the book more, actually. But I am happy to be proven wrong.

I've heard that Max Brooks' answer when asked to comment on the upcoming World War Z movie is something like, "Well, they have the same name." I, for one, am grateful for the movie since it prompted this unabridged version. And I hold out hope for the movie since I was among the few who enjoyed I, Robot the movie, just as much as I, Robot the book. They are just different animals. Fingers crossed, that WWZ is the same.

Countdown City (The Last Policeman, #2)Countdown City by Ben H. Winters

What does it say that my first act upon opening this book was to look for a date? What month is it? How close is the asteroid? Obviously, I've opted into Ben H. Winters' trilogy which began with The Last Policeman.

Just getting started, but the book grabbed my attention with a highly atypical sort of detail that communicated a lot to me, as a Catholic, about the wife.
Hung above the dresser is a small tasteful painting of Christ crucified. On the wall of the bathroom, next to the mirror, is a slogan in neat block all-capital letters: If you are what you should be, you will set the world ablaze!

"Saint Catherine," says Martha, appearing beside me in the mirror, tracing the words with her forefinger. "Isn't it beautiful?"


"This may seem like an obvious question," I say, when I'm done writing down her answers. "But what do you think he might be doing?"

Martha worries at the nail of her pinky. "I've thought about it so much, believe me. I mean, it sounds silly, but something good. He wouldn't be off bungee jumping or shooting heroin or whatever."...

"He'd be doing something, like, noble," Martha concludes. "Something he thought was noble"

I smooth the edges of my mustache. Something noble. A powerful thing to think about one's husband, especially one who's just disappeared without explanation.
It not only tells us about Martha and her trust in her husband, it sets us up to fear that he won't live up to that perfect faith. All done in less than a page. Nicely done.

Also, the author wasn't condescending about it. That is refreshing.

An Amazon Vine book, review copy.

American Phoenix: John Quincy and Louisa Adams, the War of 1812, and the Exile That Saved American IndependenceAmerican Phoenix: John Quincy and Louisa Adams, the War of 1812, and the Exile That Saved American Independence by Jane Hampton Cook

I told myself I wouldn't accept any more review books. Then I made the fatal error of downloading the Kindle sample. Aaargh! It grabbed me right away.

I realize that I somehow got this Adams couple confused with the elder Adams couple, since John and Abigail's correspondence was famous. However, I have an interest in John Quincy that I wouldn't have otherwise, except that William Bennett's take on him was very sympathetic in America: The Last Best Hope, vol. 1. And the author's style is that of a good historical fiction author, at least in the first few pages. I am anxiously wondering what will happen with the untrustworthy servant, the horrendous murder down the road, and the frozen roads in Russia. What will Louisa do?

A review book from Booksneeze.

The Shambling Guide to New York CityThe Shambling Guide to New York City by Mur Lafferty

This isn't strictly a review book, but it is coming out a chapter a week as an audiobook on iTunes as a podcast. The print version comes out very soon. If you want to hear this audiobook don't wait to download it. Mur Lafferty's agreement with the publisher is that she can only leave the audiofiles up for a week after she finishes all the chapters on the podcast. So get it while the getting is good.

So far I am enjoying this a lot. It is not another of those "the world is covered with zombies and we're all just trying to survive" books. The supernatural world is existing camouflaged alongside ours, as we can anticipate from watching our heroine try to get a job writing travel guides.

I enjoyed Lafferty's Playing for Keeps which was a light take on superhero adventures, which were all the craze at the time. Shambling Guide seems like a similar take on the current zombie craze in literature so I look forward to seeing what sort of adventure tale is spun.

I'll update this as the book goes along, but am posting this early on in response to Mur's plea for reviews at Goodreads to help sales out.

So far, this seems like a light, fun read that I would give to my mother or sister (who do not delve quite as deeply as I do into urban fantasy). And, depending on where the story goes, I might even pick it up for my own shelves.

Fire of Mercy, Heart of the Word: Meditations on the Gospel According to Saint MatthewFire of Mercy, Heart of the Word: Meditations on the Gospel According to Saint Matthew by Erasmo Leiva Merikakis

I mentioned this book before but have been trying to figure out how to describe this treasure as I continue working my way through it.

It makes me eager for afternoon prayer and, I'm sorry to admit, that is a rare thing ... to be eager for prayer. To think, "Woohoo! I get to read another section of Fire of Mercy!" So there's that.

Will Duquette says it best. We may recall he turned me onto this book so he's further ahead.
All of my hopes for Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis’ book Fire of Mercy, Heart of the Word. I’ve been getting up early every day to spend time in study ever since Easter Tuesday (including Saturdays and Sundays!), and I’m regularly astonished by the blindingly obvious things he pulls out of each line of the text—blindingly obvious after you’ve seen them—that I had never noticed before. I’m keeping notes of my reflections; some of them may appear here in the future. (As some kind of indication of the depth of Erasmo’s writing…50 days after Easter, I’m not quite to the end of the third chapter of Matthew’s gospel.)
Yes, being hit by blindingly obvious that regularly surprises me too while it simultaneously enlightens me. I'm feeling dumber by the page and yet I don't mind because I'm so blown away that I have food for thought for the rest of the day.


  1. Hi, Julie! I went to add this to my wish list on Amazon, and I see volume 1, volume 2, and volume 3. Are you reading volume 1, or is there a single volume that contains the whole thing? By thew ay, I'm reading The Last Policeman based on your recommendatin, and I love it. Thanks for all you do.

    1. So happy you are enjoying The Last Policeman. I'm now about halfway through Countdown City and finding it is just as good as the first.

  2. Oops! Let me clarify: I'm referring to "Fire of Mercy, Heart of the Word".

    1. Thank you ... my mind was reeling. :-D

      Vol. 1 is what I'm reading. Sorry for that lack of clarity!