Thursday, December 15, 2011

Review and Giveaway: Night of the Living Dead Christian by Matt Mikalatos

When I was young, I loved a good monster story. I watched the movies, read the books and even stayed up late to sneak in creeptacular viewings of Michael Jackson’s Thriller video on Friday Night Videos (ah, growing up in rural America with no cable). Somewhere along the (long) road through college, however, I began to find monster stories less interesting and more disturbing. I can now no longer make it through movies like Se7en or Scream, that I repeatedly watched and enjoyed those first few years of college.

But throughout my love/hate relationship with monster stories, the one type of monster whose story has never really interested me the zombie. I don’t know what it is about zombies, but they’ve never really done it for me, so it might not come as too much of a shocker that a book with the phrase “Living Dead” in the title wouldn’t be at the top of my reading list. But surprisingly, it was. From the moment I first heard about Night of the Living Dead Christian, I found myself excited to get my hands on copy. And I wasn’t disappointed.

The Twitter² Summary:
In author Matt Mikalatos’ second (not-quite-true) story, he takes us on a journey of overcoming the monstrous inclinations within us all. The comedic tale of Mikalatos and his neighbors features zombies, vampires, mad scientists and a next-door werewolf named Luther.

The Low-down:
Mikalatos crafts a clever narrative wherein believers of all stripes are portrayed as monsters straight of the cheesy B-movies of the past. What’s great about Night of the Living Dead Christian is that Mikalatos doesn’t sit on the sidelines lobbing cynical bombs of monster labels at his pet peeves in the church world. Rather, he inserts (and accuses) himself as a character in the narrative.

Although Mikalatos narrates the story, his werewolf neighbor, Luther, is truly the main character as the central plot of the book follows his struggle to tame the beast. Mikalatos even occasionally turns over narration duties to allow Luther to wax theological on the nature of sin, rescue, and redemption.

A story at times both sad and funny enough to elicit audible laughter, Night of the Living Dead Christian forces the reader to examine his or her own monstrous inclinations.

The Author’s Own Words:

The Rating:
4 of 5 Stars (An interesting book that kept me turning the pages)

The Links:

The Contest:
I’m giving away a free copy of Night of the Living Dead Christian – comment by 11:59 PM Central Time, Friday December 23 for your chance to win! (Winner will be chosen from all entries by The Little One grabbing your name out of a hat or fishbowl or other suitable item.)

Disclosure of Material Connection:
I received this book free from Tyndale House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC's “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Friday, December 9, 2011

Review: Supreme Courtship by Christopher Buckley

My very first job was washing the plate glass windows of my uncle's law firm on the small-town main street of my hometown. I loved coming in twice a month and just being around the smell of old books and leather that exuded from the conference room made me a happy camper.  I now understand that the practice of law is more than just a cool office, leather-bound books and unisex bathrooms. (At least that's what my friends in the field tell me - I've heard it both ways.)

In Supreme Courtship, author Christopher Buckley looks at the world of law from the other side of the bench as he melds the highest court in the land with, arguably, the lowest.

The Twitter² Summary: 
When his first two selections are rebuffed, President Donald Vanderdamp spites Judiciary Chairman Dexter Mitchell by nominating reality-TV judge “Pepper” Cartwright. When her popularity creates a quick confirmation, Mitchell resigns his Senate seat to star as president on a TV show that proves so popular that he runs for real.

The Low-Down: 
Buckley’s blend of the U. S. Supreme Court with a fictional TV courtroom show is usually smooth, but this makes the occasional hiccups all the more glaring. The most obvious of these is the recurring theme of the rodeo slang Pepper speaks and the stretch that at least one character understands it that shouldn’t. Another is Buckley’s use of footnotes that distract from his narrative with unnecessary jokes.

I do appreciate that in a novel about the forces and practice of politics, Buckley doesn't identify his characters by party. This allows the reader to apply their own filter to Buckley’s spot-on satire of Washington politics. It remains to be seen whether Supreme Courtship’s story will remain pertinent as a commentary of the ever-shifting world of politics or become a relic of the specific time of this political season.

The Rating: 
3 of 5 stars (Great for a one-time read, I’d check it out from your local library.)