Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Sixty Million Frenchmen Can't Be Wrong

Written by Jean-Benoit Nadeau and Julie Barlow, this book tries to explain why so many people love France but not the French. An interesting book, although a bit dry at times, it travels through the reasons the French are just worlds away from any other country.

It starts out with French history and how the French people are ingrained in their history even when they are moving forward and becoming more modern. The French hold their elite up and expect them to be better (grandeur); going as far as to create elite schools just to make some people better than others. The book also covers the wars France was involved in, including WWII where they persecuted their Jews before Germany could. Explanations of the various forms of government explain why the French are more than ok with one large governing body and ok with being taxed on everything. Overall, the system works even if it looks unwieldy to everyone else. Most people are covered for medical and unemployment and retirement in France.

This book doesn't explain everything about France but it's pretty close. A good introduction into why the French are the way they are and why they are not necessarily what we think they are.

Monday, December 28, 2009

T is for Trespass by Sue Grafton

Excellent book in the alphabet series. This one was a little disturbing, most likely because I've spent so much time in nursing homes and around the elderly this year. Kinsey's neighbor, Gus, is in his 80's and ends up falling and dislocating his shoulder. The doctor determines that Gus can't go home without care. His long-lost niece hires an LVN and from there, all hell breaks loose.

There's no rampant violence in this book. Just quiet cunning and elder abuse that is more horrific than a psychopath. Solana Rojas is the nurse who has stolen someone's identity and makes a habit of caring for elderly people and stealing from them and disposing of them when she's done. She's crazy, yes. But able to do all her evil deeds right under everyone's nose. Very scary when you think how vunerable the elderly can be, especially when they have no relatives left.

I wonder what Grafton is going to do when she runs out of letters?

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Breathless by Dean Koontz

Grady Adams and Cammy Rivers, along with some violent killers, a frankensteinian homeless man and some others, are just hanging out when they see "something" that convinces them that the world is going to end or explode into chaos. Good premise, bad execution.

I was pretty disappointed in this book. What starts out as magical type creatures and a very weird killer ends up as basically nothing. What are the creatures? Besides pretty? What about the killer? What's his deal? Turns out, nothing.

I doubt I would even recommend this to anyone. It just felt very disjointed and vague.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A Little Bit Wicked by Kristin Chenoweth

I first found out about Kristin from Pushing Daisies. When I started looking around, I realized she was in Wicked, one of my favorite musicals (and book!). If you read her book you really should consider listening to the audio version. Kristin reads it and she has such a distinctive voice that it's really a pleasure to listen to. That, along with her giggles and snorts as she tells stories. That as well plus the guest appearances by her best friend Denny and her on again off again beau Aaron Sorkin. Great little book to listen to!

Kristin details how she got to where she's at. Adopted and living in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, Kristin pursued her Masters in Opera and went through the pageant circuit to win money to finish her degree. Smart girl.

Moving to New York with Denny, she didn't get overnight success but she did make people stand up and notice her with her talent. She describes the various performances and struggles and how she made it through everything.

Remember, listen to the audio version! It's worth it!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown

As an audio book, I swear this was at least 100 hours long. I think it was really about 30 but it seemed to take forever. I now realize that there are sections of Dan Brown's novels that I skip and you just can't with an audio book.

Nevertheless, this was a pretty good book. Although the end seemed a little preachy and would have been something I would have skipped.

Robert Langdon is back, this time in Washington DC as a favor to his old friend, Peter Solomon. He's there to give a lecture but finds himself embroiled in yet another one of his adventures. Really, it's amazing how adventurous being a Harvard professor can be. The Lost Symbol focuses this time on the Masons. This was actually interesting to me as I recently learned that my grandfather was a mason. I'm curious now how much of this "history" in the novel is real and how much is made up to make an entertaining book. Peter is kidnapped by Mal'akh, who desires to become the ultimate demon and thinks the ancient mysteries of the freemasons will help him.

There were several plot twists that made me go WTF? although one of them it was obvious that it couldn't have really happened. All in all, entertaining enough to keep me listening for an ungodly amount of time.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Scarpetta Factor by Patricia Cornwell

For some reason, I now forget the Scarpetta books almost as fast I as read them. Which is a bad thing now since Cornwell keeps pulling old plots and characters from the past to make starring appearances in the new books.

Scarpetta has a dead body of a runner on her table that is causing her problems. Nothing about the crime looks right and the Biograph watch that was left on the body is more confusing when there isn't any information (on the internet) about it. Lucy and Berger are together and having problems. Lucy, aside from Benton, is my least favorite character. And unfortunately, her and Benton feature pretty prominently in this book. Scarpetta now appears as a guest on CNN on a regular basis and the case of a missing socialite, Hannah Starr, is the only questions Scarpetta is being asked. And is werewolf guy back?

The book seemed to move along at a good pace, which is good considering how disjointed all of the cases and the plot were. However, Cornwell actually managed to tie everything together at the end in a way that actually was entertaining and made some sense.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris

My first foray into the Sookie Stackhouse series which has been made into HBO's True Blood (which I probably won't get from Blockbuster for a few more years). This was actually a cute book, not serious or heavy. Something of a beach read.

Sookie is a waitress in a local bar and has the unique ability to read minds. She does her best to stay out of people's heads and even calls her ability a "disability". Vampires have just become legal citizens and the folks in Bon Temps are eager to see their first vampire.

Enter Bill. How that's a name for a vampire, I don't know, but his name is Bill. Bill and Sookie end up as a couple while trying to figure out a series of murders that have suddenly happened in Bon Temps.

Quick read, cute characters.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Spook by Mary Roach

Mary Roach has already tackled sex and corpses, now she tackles the afterlife. Spook was actually pretty good in Roach's typical fun but scientific way.

Roach explores reincarnation, whether a soul exists (is it the big toe? or the sperm?), how much a soul weighs (surprisingly a lot of tests to determine this), ectoplasm, mediums, etc. She actually got to speak with Allison Du Bois, who is the basis of the TV series Medium.

I still don't believe quite a bit, and neither did Roach, but I do know that sometimes faith and belief is not based on fact or anything provable. It just is.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Gods Drink Whiskey by Stephen Asma

For the majority of people, Buddhism is linked to Tibet and the Dalai Lama. In this book, we learn about Buddhism in Cambodia called Theravada Buddhism. As it turns out, associating Tibetan Buddhism as "the" Buddhism is like associating Mormonism as "the" Christianity. Only about 6% of the world's Buddhists are Tibetan Buddhists (out of roughly 400 million Buddhists).

Asma was invited to teach Buddhism at the Cambodian Buddhist Institute to a select group of students. He covers his journey through a new country and new version of Buddhism in this really well written and engaging book.

*Tibetan Buddhism encourages deities when in reality Buddha did not want deities. People should be focused on themselves and achieving nibbana (enlightenment or cooling - having a cool heart). Although holy relics are still sacred to Theravadan Buddhists - such as Buddha's eyebrow or tooth.
*The title of the book comes from the fact that whiskey is offered up to the spirits to keep the peace. Families and businesses have little spirit houses where they make offerings to keep the bad stuff from happening to them. And in this case, spirits like whiskey.
*Theravada Buddhism is mixed with a bit of Hinduism and most still worship Vishnu and Shiva, even though Buddha says there are no gods. Most religions are a mix of others and one would probably be hard pressed to find a pure religion.
*Theravadan Buddhists meditate on corpses. This is to pound in the fact of impermanence. I don't think I want to do that.
* Cambodia is a hot mess. Politics, assassinations on the streets, Khmer Rouge. It's no wonder the peace of Buddhism is practiced.
*Penises aka phallic symbols are worshiped by some.

There is a ton more information and it's all very interesting and gives a great perspective of religion in Southeast Asia.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Rough Country by John Sandford

Another fuckin' Flowers book.

Virgil is an official favorite now, along with Davenport. Flowers gets called off his vacation to check out the body of Erica McDill, a woman found shot in the head in the water. McDill was staying at the Eagle's Nest, a women's retreat but also apparently something of a whorehouse, without the madam. Flowers digs deep, almost ends up having sex many times with a suspects sister (doesn't he always?) and finally solves the case. Doesn't he always?

Interesting twist at the end, which was nice. While I suspected who the killer was, I didn't guess the sordid history of the killer. And the fight at the end, with a classic Tyson ear biting, was pretty priceless. Poor fuckin' Flowers didn't get exactly what he wanted after all though.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

On Beauty by Zadie Smith

An incredibly written book, this took over 20 hours to listen to. I can't imagine what the actual book weighs.

On Beauty is a story of the Belsey family and the Kipps family. The Belseys are Howard, a white professor at Wellington, his wife Kiki, a large full of life African/American and their 3 childeren, Jerome, Levi and Zora. Howard is an academic enemy of Monty Kipps, all well as long as oceans separated them. But the Kippses end up moving to Wellington, outside of Boston, so Monty can teach at Howard's university.

What happens between and around all of this is a story of people coming together while other people are falling apart. The only really likable character, in my opinion, is Kiki. While everyone around her is making horrible decisions, she's trying to hold everything together. When the Kippses end up moving down the street from them, Kiki befriends Carlene Kipps, the matriarch of the family, who is also very ill.

There's too much to give away here, but I won't. It made it a better story having everything uncovered to me and I hope others can experience it as well.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Grave Surprise by Charlaine Harris

I needed something lighter and less intense than all the non-fiction I've been reading. This is the second, I believe, in the Harper Connelly series. As a recap, Harper was struck by lightning when she was young and now she can find corpses and see how they died. She travels with her brother on jobs, she's who people call as a last resort.

This one is a case within a case. Harper, on another assignment, actually finds a body of a child that she was asked to find (and couldn't) months earlier. In come the police, the family and everyone else. Most believe Harper is a fraud and want to know what her involvement is in the murder. Harper and her brother Tolliver believe it's too much of a coincidence that the little girl's body showed up at the new assignment. Someone was framing her.

And so on. Frankly this wasn't as entertaining as the first book. A little slow and delving into a previous case and trying to connect it all together was a little splotchy. I had figured out the whodunit part way early on and just had to wait for everyone else to catch up.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Lowside of the Road by Barney Hoskyns

An extremely unauthorized bio of Tom Waits, this book leads us from Waits' beginnings at the Troubador up until the Glitter and Doom tour this past year.

Honestly, I mostly never really want to know the person behind my favorite music and Waits has become one of my top favorites. I don't know, I guess I always figure that I'll be really disappointed if the person turns out to be a jackass and kicks puppies or something. I'm still a huge fan of Waits, probably even more so now.

This took forever to read because I didn't realize (or pay attention to the fact that) I missed almost everything in Waits' early career. I pretty much was introduced around Swordfishtrombone and went from there. The Waits I always liked was the gruff, hoarse, eccentric who pounded on chest of drawers to get percussion (Mule Variations being one of my absolute favorites). Who knew?

I ended up downloading virtually everything in the Waits discography and listening to it as I read the book, which accounts for why it took so damn long to finish. Closing Time is a Waits I never knew existed and one that I really like, although it doesn't eclipse the post-swordfish era.

Although I disagreed with the author....often...I still think this had a lot of great insight into the making of everything in the Waits vault and is fairly well rounded. Clearly there are issues with Brennan being a songwriting partner that I don't have, but to each their own

Saturday, September 5, 2009

When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron

Chodron is an American Buddhist nun and is apparently a prolific writer. Going through some difficult times now, this book called to me from the Border's book shelf.

I'm going to admit that I started off reading this book thinking "What the hell are you talking about?" Leaning into the sharp points, facing your demons, embracing suffering - all sounds well and good but HOW do you do it? Buddhism is all abut guidelines and rarely ever says "Here is how you do this"

The more I read, though, the more I got it. I need to be kinder to myself. Less critical, less admonishment. The underlying factor here is if you can't have compassion for yourself, it's going to be difficult to be compassionate towards others. There is no right or wrong, no good or evil. Things just ARE. We're all here for a short time, so why not give yourself a break and lighten up a little?

I'm a classic case of escapism. When things are difficult, I do my best but I always retreat; into books, classes, knitting, what have you. Chodron encourages us to not reach for comfort when things go rotten. That's going to be mighty hard to do.

There's a really good chapter about not harming others. While you may not deliberately harm people, chances are you are doing harm when you're upset, embarrassed, angry, etc. Words, actions, emotions all mean the world and you have to be aware of what you say, do and feel. Being aware of how you react to things is even applauded as a great first step.

I'm going to try to put these things into practice. We'll see how it goes :)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Dissecting Death by Frederick Zugibe MD

This book coins itself as secrets of a medical examiner. If you like CSI (and you can read) you'll probably really like this book. It's not flashy with lots of weird angles like CSI but it's well written and plain spoken about the life of a medical examiner.

Looking up the good doctor, I see he is very well known for his research on crucifixion. That explains why the last section of the book explains why Mel Gibson's Passion of Christ (or whatever) was medically incorrect.

Zugibe goes over 10 cases that show various points of the forensic field. One case involves a woman found slashed and stabbed in the woods and they must determine time of death; apparently a very tricky thing to do despite what the tv shows say. Another case provides them with a few bones found in a grave, along with pieces of material, and they must determine if it could be a missing reporter.

Zugibe explains in plain English DNA testing, bone testing, insect forensics, etc. All very interesting and, dare I say, educational.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Blankets by Craig Thompson

Blankets is an autobiographical graphic novel and came pretty highly recommended. I can honestly see why. This is a beautifully drawn, painfully honest, sweet novel of growing up and falling in love for the first time.

Growing up in an Evangelical Christian family, Thompson depicts his childhood as somewhat scary (at least the dad was a little scary to me) and troubled. Constantly picked on and forced to share a bed with his little brother, Thompson turned to Christianity early on.

At church camp, he meets Riana and they soon fall in love. We witness their 2 weeks together at Riana's and see how heartbreaking first loves can be.

Thompson moves on to the city after finding out first loves don't last forever.

This is an incredibly sweet book and well worth reading.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Stupid American History by Leland Gregory

I'm assuming Mr. Gregory has his facts straight about the myths and stupidity of America. This little book is full of trivia that you just never knew. Such as when JFK was assassinated, it wasn't a federal felony to kill a president. You have to wonder why?!?!

When the Titanic hit the iceberg the night of April 14th, most of the travelers were watching....The Poseiden Adventure...about a ship capsizing. Irony, no?

This book covers the beginning of America to fairly current political history (even has some snarkiness towards Dubya). Very entertaining and full of tidbits to shock and awe your dinner guests.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

1 Dead in Attic by Chris Rose

I had a trip to New Orleans planned so I decided to go to the library and get some history books. I saw 1 Dead In Attic and remembered seeing Chris Rose on No Reservations talking to Anthony Bourdain. He was a slight mess and pretty emotional about Katrina and the aftermath, even years later. I got the book anyways.

This is basically a series of Rose's newspaper articles that he wrote, editorials pretty much. Very emotional, very raw and, sometimes, very upsetting. He left his wife and kids with family in Maryland and went back to their New Orleans home to report on the aftermath of Katrina. His home was relatively undamaged but Rose completely immersed himself in the misery that other people were living. He described everyone there as living with post traumatic stress disorder and he couldn't have been more right.

Rose completely opened himself up and became an "embedded journalist", as he called himself, and the war he saw took a huge toll on him, which is evident in his writing.

This is truly a good book to read to try and understand what was happening down there that the news didn't report to you. Made me cry more than once.

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

Another Librivox recording and seriously, what a great recording. This one was well worth downloading.

I think everyone knows the premise of Dorian Gray. Some have even accused Johnny Depp of having his own Dorian Gray type painting stashed away somewhere. The basic plot is that Dorian Gray is painted by an artist named Basil Hallward. When Gray meets Lord Henry, Basil's friend, he becomes convinced that his youth and beauty are the only things that matter in this world and feverently wishes that the painting take his age and sins while he remains young and beautiful.

As Dorian goes about his life, falling in love with an actress Sybil Vane and later cruelly and horribly dumping her, he discovers that the painting is taking on all of his sins and the sin of aging. He's not worried enough to live a good life but is worried enough to hide the painting away in his attic so no one else can see it.

In the end, albeit too late, Dorian realizes that the painting must go and he must become good. Although I suspected what would happen when the painting was "destroyed" it was still a good ending because Dorian himself was a truly despicable character. I found both Dorian and Lord Henry to be so utterly self-absorbed and shallow that it was almost impossible to finish the book.

The moral plotline, of course, is the warning against such vanity. Unfortunately, I've seen many people in this day and age who are just as vain and shallow as those two.

I checked out a few tidbits on this book after I read it and really enjoyed the following:

In a letter, Wilde said the main characters are reflections of himself: "Basil Hallward is what I think I am: Lord Henry what the world thinks me: Dorian what I would like to be—in other ages, perhaps"


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Year of Living Biblically by AJ Jacobs

My 100th review on here! yay!

I've been wanting to read this book every time I saw it in the store but then I always forgot about it. I finally got it at the library. I wonder why I was so ambivalent in reading this? I'm far from religious. If a label needs to be slapped on me, it would be agnostic.

Turns out Jacobs is also agnostic. He got the idea to live the bible literally for a year from his ex-uncle Guru Gil (more on him in the book). He starts out gathering all the information he can from the Old Testament to do for the first 8 months or so of his quest. The rest of the time will be devoted to the New Testament.

It's an interesting journey he takes that is neither pro-religion or anti-religion. While this book does show that in a lot of instances you just can't live the bible literally, it also shows that you can. Living the Commandments (from the Old Testament) is pretty literal, loving thy neighbor is pretty literal, etc. However, wearing only white, eating bugs and sacrificing animals...not so much.

It's a given that not many people really truly follow the bible literally, no matter what they say. Jacobs manages to find people who are doing the best they can to do exactly what the bible says, including visiting the Amish and snake handlers.

This is a very well put together book that is nicely neutral on the religious topic. It just leads you through one man's attempt to follow the bible as literally as possible.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Skin Trade by Laurell Hamilton

Finally! An Anita Blake book with more plot and less badly written "erotica". Maybe it's because Anita was taken from her precious St. Louis folks and placed in Las Vegas with other US Marshals who just aren't as appealing to her. Or maybe Hamilton realized that her porn writing sucks. No pun intended.

Anita is mailed a severed head from Las Vegas. She contacts Undersheriff Shaw and works out that someone pretty powerful has killed their vampire hunter (owner of the head) and has put several other cops into a deep sleep. Against everyone's wishes, Anita packs up and heads to Las Vegas.

The plot is worth reading the book for however, for whatever reason, we get a lot, I mean A LOT, of Anita bringing up the fact that she's a chick. More in the "someone has to protect the girl" sort of way that is just very weak. Is Hamilton trying to show that Anita is weakening or is Hamilton running out of things to say? Can't really tell.

It was entertaining that Shaw was constantly accusing Blake of f*cking everything that walks and Blake trying to defend herself when YEAH, that's exactly what she's been doing for the past god knows how many books. Although the Shaw thing was pretty repetitive and needed to be done with quicker than it was.

There is still orgiful porn for the folks who like that but it's enough of a book...a real help other people enjoy it too. Now that I've read the Twilight series, I can see a lot of commonalities between these too.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Relentless by Dean Koontz

I doubt I will never not read a Koontz book, but I have quit buying them simply because the last few have disappointed me. With the exception of the Odd Thomas series.

I picked up Relentless from the library because the book cover revealed a plot that seemed just as bad as the previous books. Color me pleasantly surprised! And completely creeped out.

Relentless follows author Cubby and his wife Penny and brilliant son Milo as they try to avoid a homicidal, psychopathic killer who happens to be a book critic. As in the Koontz fashion, the book starts out with enough realism that the reader does get a little creeped out. Even the receptionist in the doctors office noticed me shudder and decided to get the book (free advertising for you, Koontz!). Koontz always seems to inject enough reality into his stories that you believe some part of them could really happen. Evil is out there and that's undeniable. Why can't evil be a book critic?

As always with Koontz, a little bit of supernatural makes it way into the novel which brings the plausibility down some but still makes it a true Koontz novel.

The ending was something that I expected and I was a little disappointed but not shocked. A good read though and score one for Koontz again!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Finger Lickin' Fifteen by Janet Evanovich

I've long quit buying the Stephanie Plum series since they all seemed to be the same. Sure, they were funny, even had some laugh out loud moments, but it was always deja vu. I finally got number 15 from the library and I'm very pleasantly surprised! Fifteen was actually good. Yeah it was very similar to the others but there were some nice new plot lines.

Stephanie and Morelli had a fight and broke up. Ranger requests Stephanie's help in finding out who is breaking into his security accounts and making his company look bad. I'm confused why he chose Stephanie since she still sucks as a bounty hunter but it does get Stephanie back into Ranger's bed.

Lula witnesses a murder by decapitation and ends up being shot at and almost blown up by the killers. Turns out famous chef Stanley Chipotle is the headless victim. He was in town for the big BBQ cookoff and got on someone's bad side. Lula, Grandma, Stephanie and Connie end up entering the contest to try and find the killers.

The same basic formula but this one had something extra, with a lot more laughs.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The New Adventures of Jesus by Frank Stack

I'll probably go to hell for reading this book (ha ha) but for the most part it was entertaining. There were sections that were just hilarious like when Jesus' followers jump into a stream to cool off and when Jesus jumps in, he bounces off the water. Get it? That made me laugh.

I bypassed several sections, like the college faculty meeting, because it wasn't funny and just wasn't entertaining at all.

Jesus comes back to Earth to learn about present day. He gets beat up by cops for being a damn hippie, forced into the draft, and deals with being a middle class person who can't afford to pay the bills.

Cute book if you don't mind seeing Jesus naked.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Grave Sight by Charlaine Harris

This was my first introduction to Harris' work. I was pleasantly surprised since this was still supernatural in a sense but a different version of a supernatural ability that I've read before.

Harper Connelly and her stepbrother Tolliver Lang travel the country as contractors, so to speak. Harper has the unique ability to find dead people. Having been hit by lightening when she was younger, Harper has since been able to track corpses and actually relive their final few moments, although she never sees WHO is behind murders. She is hired to determine real causes of death and to find lost people who are presumed dead.

Her and her brother end up in Sarne, AK. A friendly on the outside sort of place. She does the job she was paid for and ends up a suspect in the murder for her trouble. They are forced to stay in town while the grumpy sheriff works through the case but many residents don't want them there at all. Harper is hounded, harassed and nearly killed but also finds a nice companionship with one of the townspeople who isn't trying to kill her.

Family ties run deep in this book with people killing to protect their secrets

Friday, June 26, 2009

Bones to Ashes by Kathy Reichs

I picked up this Temperance Brennan novel at the library book sale, pretty sure that I hadn't seen this before. Luckily I was right.

I needed a good book to get me back into reading for fun, rather than schoolwork. This was it. I devoured this one in 2 days. The TV show Bones is based on the Temperance Brennan novels but I personally love the novels more although I really enjoy the show.

Bones to Ashes takes us to Brennan's past as her baby brother dies, her father dies and her mom and sister and her are uprooted to live with her Gran. Brennan meets a girl named Evangeline and they play together every summer until Evangeline disappears. No one wants to talk about her disappearance and Brennan is told it's very "dangerous" and to go away.

In present time, several corpses have landed in Brennan's lab, including the old skeleton of a girl who is possibly Brennan's old friend. Several disappearances of young girls over several years has Ryan, Hippo and Brennan rushing to trying to figure the case out before another young girl ends up missing.

A very fast paced and untimately surprising book.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Top Ten Book 2 by Alan Moore

Book 2 was just as good as the first, I think. Are there any more Top Ten books out there, I wonder?

The same cast of characters comes to Book 2, most of whom are fairly likable. A main character is killed and many more injured in a duel with the Commissioner. Some odd little twists and one slightly weird/off "wrap up" of the super mice storyline.

All in all, good book.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

Love Love Love Love.


I'm only NOW finding Neil Gaiman and cursing myself for taking so long to do so! I listened to Neverwhere on audiobook read by Mr. Gaiman himself. He does a fantastic job with the characters but the story is just so tremendous and engrossing. Gaiman has created a place called London Below and it's quite different from London Above (well, duh). London Below consists of people who fall through the cracks and Richard Mayhew accidentally becomes one of those people. All because he is a kind person and went out of his way to help Door, a young girl from LB who was hurt.

Door has a special gift, she can open any door, locked, stuck or not even there. She is avenging the deaths of her family and Richard, having no where else to go down in LB, goes along with her. The enlist the help of the Marquis de Carabas, a trickster who calls in favors to help him out. Door also employs a bodyguard, Hunter, since the assassins Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar are trying to kill her.

Their journey leads them all through the LB and they meet up with an angel (Islington), battle in an ordeal at the Black Friars, encounter the Beast of London and meet Sewer People.

Neverwhere really is non-stop adventure with some of the strangest but most endearing characters you could ever want to meet.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Top Ten (Book 1) by Alan Moore

Alan Moore is kind of a scary looking guy. And I'm just thinking of the Simpson's episode that he was in. Scary as he may look, he's pretty damn talented. Watchmen was my first foray into the world of Moore and then I was lent both books of Top Ten.

Top Ten (book 1) was illustrated by Gene Ha and Zander Cannon. It introduces us to the cops of the Tenth Precinct in the city of Neopolis. Everyone in Neopolis, it seems, has a superpower. Even the children and, I think, pets. You would think this would put the cops at a disadvantage. Hmm.

Robyn Slinger is just starting out on the force. Her power is the ability to control toys which is why her nickname is Toy Box. (That's just a bad nickname for a chick). She's teamed with Smax, who is big and blue and indestructible with a mean disposition. They are off to help track down the killer of someone named Saddles who was dealing drugs. The Libra serial killer is also at large, severer of the heads of prostitutes.

Enter also a deranged, pyschokentic Santa Claus, ultra powerful mice and some chick with and you have a pretty entertaining story.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Turn Coat by Jim Butcher

Harry Harry Harry Dresden. He's getting on par with Lucas Davenport in the characters I'll follow everywhere.

Turn Coat is the 11th book in the Dresden Files. Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden is a wizard/PI. He helps out the Chicago PD when weird things happen that no one can explain or no one wants to acknowledge. Harry is a member of the White Council and a Warden (big deal in the magic world). His nemesis, Warden Morgan, ends up on Harry's doorstep bleeding and begging for his help. Harry, being the nice guy he is, shelters Morgan and does his best to help him prove his innocence against some trumped up murder charge.

Captain Luccio is back and still hot and heavy with Dresden....but this ends in a plot twist that I didn't see coming. Molly is back as Harry's apprentice and is helping to protect Warden Morgan. A new Big Nasty is introduced in the form of an ancient skinwalker. A shape shifting beast that seems to be indestructible.

Turn Coat is on of my favorites in the Dresden series. It was fast-paced and introduced quite the boatload of new plot twists that will (hopefully) be carried forward into the rest of the series. One beef: Michael was injured badly in the last book, but Turn Coat only devotes one sentence to how he is. Tying up that little loose end would have been nice.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Boulevard of Broken Dreams by Kim Deitch

Deja vu because I've seen this before. Most likely in a Raw comic.

Blvd shows the progress, or decline, of Mishkin, the creator of Waldo the cat. Waldo is Mishkin's hallucination and comes to life through cartoons. Mishkin eventually loses it and everyone gets old and travels down the broken dreams boulevard. sad and crazy.

It's a good graphic novel. I just had to give it back to the library before writing this so I can't get too specific. Sorry!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Wicked Prey by John Sandford

I rarely enjoy a character so much that I stick with them through 19 books. Wicked Prey is the 19th book in Sandford's Prey series and it's just as good as the first. I don't know what it is about Lucas Davenport that is just so intriguing but as long as the stories are good and Lucas is in them, I'm a fan. If we include Kidd and that fuckin' Flowers, Sandford creates characters that you have to follow.

Wicked Prey has the Republican convention in Minnesota, with McCain and Palin (ugh). I wonder how dated and weird that will be when someone 10 years from now reads this book. Anyways, filthy rich politicians are swarming and taking up every available police resource. Which is the perfect scenario for some intelligent heists. The "villians" in this book are actually incredibly smart. Frighteningly smart. They give Lucas a fair run for his money while they manage to pull off some pretty detailed robberies that net them millions of dollars. Incredibly smart doesn't mean they aren't greedy and the greed, and need for one final heist, ultimately is their undoing.

The side story in this novel involves Letty, Lucas' soon to be adopted daughter. She goes up against her own set of evil-doers much to everyone's dismay. I realize that her character is still being fleshed out but in the Prey books, everyone is a supporting character to Davenport. So much time spent on Letty, in the end, irked me a little.

Great plot, great writing and great characters. What else do you need?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Breaking Dawn by Stephanie Meyer

The 4th, and thankfully, final in the Twilight series.

Am I harsh? Yes. I understand that I am not the target audience for this series, I really do. But even teens and pre-teens deserve a well written book and they just didn't get it with this one. My review of her last book was harsh because she drives home this climatic plot and then fails to deliver.

She did it again. But this time we had to read almost 700 pages to get to it. Spoilers ahead. Be warned and beware.

Bella, still an incredibly whiny person, and Edward marry. They honeymoon. They have bed breaking sex. Bella gets preggers and it develops rapidly. It takes Bella too many pages to figure this out. They go home. Bella whines that she. must. have. this. child! It's a mini-Edward, she thinks. Bella almost dies having the kid. Bella becomes a vampire. An incredibly annoying vampire. Big fight planned, literally for lots of chapters. Fight? No. Everyone walks away. Happy ending. Yay teen marriages and pregnancies.

700+ pages condensed.

My beef again with Ms. Meyer is that she builds and builds a plot line, one that could actually work as plot, and then lets it fall. She has a good idea going, she has a great concept for a great story but she just doesn't do anything with it. And how in the world did she make Bella more annoying as a vampire? We know your vampires are fast. That's drilled into the reader's skull every chapter of every book. So did we need to hear how every move or thought Bella had "takes less than a second." "that took a sixty-fourth of a second." "an eighty-seventh of a second" I get your target audience is young, but they're not dumb.

You massive battle between good and evil was an enormous letdown. Even JK Rowling knocked off a beloved character or two. It's what gets the reader into the story and feeling along with the characters. Having everyone essentially turn to the reader and shout "PSYCH" is such a copout.

Ah well. It's done. I'll never see the movies, not even out of morbid curiousity. Not even while drunk. I'll just mourn the loss of a plot that could have been a contender .... in the right hands.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Always Looking Up by Michael J. Fox

Fox intrigues me simply because he went the opposite direction with his Parkinson's diagnosis than my dad did with his. After reading this book, I'm more impressed than ever. Fox began exhibiting symptoms of PD when he was 29 but brushed them off as overexertion. The actual PD diagnosis brought a some depression and a time of keeping it to himself. He continued to act on Spin City until the symptoms just couldn't be contained anymore.

This book is divided up into 4 sections: Work, Politics, Faith, Family. These are the 4 areas of his life that keep him going. The Work section describes his decision to give up his acting career and basically step aside. What he didn't know at the time was that he would create a Foundation that would take the place of his acting career. Fox created the Michael J Fox Foundation to fund research to cure PD. He eventually wants his Foundation to go out of business because that would mean that PD was cured.

The Politics section describes how he placed himself in the arena to advocate on the behalf of the millions of PD patients and the millions of other patients who could benefit from stem cell research. He has crisscrossed the country backing politicians who support stem cell research without regard for party lines (he can safely take a stand as the MJF Foundation receives no government funding. Chris Reeve couldn't because his Foundation did receive government funding). Most people will probably remember the Rush controversy, ie. Rush making an ass of himself by mocking Fox's commercial for Claire Gaskill and saying that Fox is acting or deliberately not taking his medicine. I remember being pissed because I knew how bad PD is WITH medicine. How Fox looked in his commercial looked like a good day.

The Faith sections expounds on Fox's childhood religious views (there weren't many) and how things have evolved since marrying Tracy, who is Jewish. They raised their children as Jewish but Fox has kept an open mind about all regligious aspects, being more curious than anything.

The last section delves into his Family. He talks about his kids, how they bond and how they handle "Shaky Dad".

Fox is a good storyteller and makes you laugh about the issues he has had to deal with having PD. It's a nice change because as I said, my dad has taken the opposite tack. No humor with lots of self-pity.

Fox's story is inspiring and the work he has done for stem cell research is amazing. His Foundation, in the short time it's been open, has done more for stem cell research and PD research than any other Foundation or government-sponsored program. With Obama as POTUS now and having lifted the ban on stem cell research, Fox may get his wish of having to close his Foundation down.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Iggy Pop: Open Up and Bleed by Paul Trynka

I borrowed this audio book from the library and didn't realize that it was 12 cds. It took forever to listen to and I'm afraid I may have forgotten what was on the first 6 cds. Ah well.

I'm a Stooges fan, newly minted. My friend introduced me to the Stooges music a few years ago and I was hooked. Naturally I knew who Iggy Pop was (the old guy who never wore a shirt) but I mainly new him from movies, oddly enough. Open Up and Bleed is a comprehensive story of Iggy/Jim's life - from growing up in Michigan to fronting one of the most prominent punk/rock bands still respected today.

Jim Osterberg aka Iggy Pop was something of an overachieving intellect in school, always trying to fit in and make people like him. But he also had a way of dumping folks when he thought they were no longer useful; a habit that persisted throughout his life. This book depicts Jim as an intelligent, considerate, charming person who just happens to have an alter ego.

Iggy Pop has been known to smear himself with peanut butter and slice himself up with broken glass on stage. Called the Godfather of Punk, Iggy invented crowd surfing - often falling face first into the ground when the crowd just didn't get it. Booed, humiliated, drug addicted Iggy had a rough go at making it big in music.

The Stooges were always dedicated to the music. Always doing anything for the music. Which makes them respected by most musicians.

Fans of Iggy or the Stooges will enjoy this book. But give yourself lots of time to read it. It's pretty long.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Lagoon by Lilli Carre

I had trouble getting this graphic novel from the library. They apparently "lost" it when I first requested it but I finally managed to snag it. This is the first Lilli Carre novel I've read and, since it's so short, I read it twice in a row.

A beautifully drawn and written graphic novel, it opens with Zoey trying to read while her grandpa sings a tune that she deems "a cat in a bathtub". The tune is from a creature in the lagoon that lures folks into the water with it. The creature is known to make some people disappear as they listen to his song. Zoey's parents are drawn to the creatures song and meet an untimely end.

There are several pages of black in this book, entirely different from anything I've read before. The dialogue is not the main drive of the book, it's the sounds. The sound of the creature's song, the sound of the metronome on the piano, the sound of the grandfather tapping out scales on the piano in his sleep. Sounds, not speech, drive the story.

Excellent book, glad I finally got it from the library!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Sandman Vol 1: Preludes and Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman

I found Gaiman through the Coraline movie and book. Sandman seemed to be the most talked about of his work so I started there.

Vol 1 follows Dream, or Morpheus Lord of the Dreams, as he is captured by Burgess and forced to live in a glass bubble for over 70 years. After escaping, quite smartly, Dream goes on to find his stolen artifacts: a helmet, a ruby and a pouch of sand.

Dream has to bounce around between dreams/nightmares and the waking world in order to get his possessions back and regain his power. His kingdom had fallen into disrepair (to put it nicely) while he was away and he works to rebuild it.

Dee, or Dr. Destiny, was the creepiest of all the people that Dream has to go up against, including the demons from hell. That's saying something.

I loved this book. The story was fantastic and the drawings were great and darkly disturbing.

Friday, April 24, 2009

The People Look Like Flowers At Last by Charles Bukowski

This is supposedly the last of Bukowski's collections to be published after his death in 1994. However,I see that Pleasures of the Damned is also out so that's probably not true.

This was a good collection of poems although it's not in my top 5 of his. Sorry Buk! There were several standouts, including Eulogies. The last section focused more on death and frankly the last poem was eerie (I don't have the book in front of me to give you the title).

I usually pull snippets of genius from Bukowski's poems rather than swooning over entire poems. Offhand, the lead up to Part 4 had:

The wisdom to quit is all we have left

Along with this from The Dogs Bark Knives:

Let us know that living out a life
among billions of idiots with molecule feelings
is an art itself

There are plenty more gems in this book. If you're a Bukowski fan, it's worth a read.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Excess Baggage by Tracy Lea Carnes

Excess Baggage is a book about a 29-year-old woman who ends up with Ulcerative Colitis and requires ostomy surgery. On prinicple, this book is a great concept because it brings Inflammatory Bowel Disease out into the open and attempts to show readers how people live with this disease and disability.

I had several issues with the novel, mainly the main character, Kelly Carmichael. She's old enough to know better but still depends on Daddy to provide her money for rent, utilities, clothes, etc. huge pet peeve of mine! She spins through life, unable to finish college and find a decent job. Finally settling in a paralegal job and finding a boyfriend, you think she's starting to get her life pulled together and to be a responsible adult. Ultimately, however, I found Kelly difficult to relate too.

Kelly eventually realizes that she is sick, with blood and mucus in her stool, and is diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis. This part makes sense. When I had Ulcerative Colitis, I didn't acknowledge it right away either. It's something that you think is just stress and will go away. Kelly is put on Prednisone to try and control the disease and is disappointed with the weight gain and moon face. Unfortunately, she spends most of her time on her mother's couch watching the Weather Channel. Not very endearing.

Kelly eventually has ostomy surgery because she hates being does her boyfriend, who's pretty dispicable himself.

The book didn't really explain UC or ostomies at all, so unless you are already aware of them, you might be confused. I also thought Kelly bounced back and accepted such a life changing operation a little too quickly to be believable. But then again, I had my surgery over 25 years ago so I may not remember it quite right :)

My biggest issue with the book was not the author or the story. It was the editing. Lots of grammatical errors and spelling errors threw me off. Unfortunately, misspelling the word "ileostomy" everywhere except in the author's bio was the final nail. The editors should have caught that one.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Eclipse by Stephanie Meyer

Part 3 of the Twilight saga down and 1 to go. I was much less disappointed with this one but Bella still sets my teeth on edge.

Spoilers be ahead!

Eclipse begins exactly like New Moon ended, for the most part. I was beginning to wonder if I had grabbed the wrong book. Seattle is being ripped apart by "serial killers" but the Cullens determine that it is really at the mercy of newborn vampires. Graduation is approaching and Bella is still determined to become a vampire as soon as possible. Jacob Black is back in the picture. Big bads want to kill Bella and truces and alliances are formed between the werewolves and vampires. Marriage is pending and hearts are broken.

My pet peeves with this one are: the almost abusive relationships between Bella and her boys. I think I'd personally be pissed about being treated like that but Bella seemed fine with it. Scary thought. I am glad Meyer backed off of that vibe because this IS a teen series and the diaglogue and the actions of Edward was not needed.

We're led up to a horrific fight between the newborns vs. the vamps and wolves but.... we didn't get to see it? Because we were sidetracked by another visit from Victoria who, for some reason, was pretty easily taken down. BOO!

Bella has now recognized her love for Jacob but still has intentions on marrying Edward and becoming a vampire. What will she do?? (since "someone" already told me the ending, I know, but I'm pretending not too. Book spoilery people SUCK).

The story was good, but ramping up to climaxes and then turning away were not the best way to handle this.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button by F. Scott Fitzgerald

I pulled this short story from - only 2 mp3s! Naturally, I was curious about the movie but I really am not a fan of Brad Pitt so I figured I'd read the story first to see if I'd like it.

Although this is a very short story, it packed a good punch. Benjamin Button is born as an old man, too big to fit in the hospital crib and already talking in the crotchety old man voice. Everyone is upset and ashamed of him, not seeing him as a curious oddity but as an embarrassment. His father encourages Benjamin to act his real age and not the age he was born at.

As Benjamin reaches his 50s he's getting noticeably younger. Still scorned and ridiculed for his reverse aging he meets and falls in love with a young lady.

The story follows Button's life as he serves in the army, has a child and grows younger every year. Everyone seems to believe this is something he can control and get very angry at him for not acting his age.

Sadly you can anticipate the ending as Button goes into his childhood.

Great story that actually made me sad and made me think about elderly folks with dementia and Alzheimers that revert back to their childhood as well.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Unforgiving Minute by Craig Mullaney

I normally do not read anything in the military genre mostly because it's just too hard to read. I saw Craig Mullaney on The Daily Show and the interview was compelling enough that I checked the book out from the library.

This is an exceptional book. Mullaney writes about his time at West Point, going to Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar and leading a platoon of soldiers in Afghanistan, all before he turned 25. The book follows through with his life after war - getting married, joining the Old Guard at Arlington Cemetery, teaching history at a Navel school and sending his little brother off to war. An incredibly written book, I was moved to tears more than once.

While I never assumed any of the American soldiers are stupid, I never ever realized the extent of training that they go through and the intelligence they have to have in order to survive combat and make things run smoothly. All while usually being shot at. That's pressure that the majority of folks are never going to encounter.

I still am not a fan of military books, but I highly recommend reading this one.

David Sedaris

So last night my friend Tom and I went to Ball State to see David Sedaris. My mom was supposed to go with me but with all the drama that happened at their house the last few days, she opted to stay home. Bummer for her because Sedaris was great! Tom met me at my house and drove my car, since his little 'stang has trouble in the rain. All good because I could take a painkiller to get through the rest of the night. He's a good driver.

Anyways, Sedaris read lots of new stories and they were all really funny. We had good seats right near the front. I had heard an interview with Sedaris about his tours. He brings out the new stuff he is working on and makes notes as he reads to the audience. So if he reads a section he thinks is funny but it doesn't get a laugh, he'll mark it. Stuff that gets a big laugh, he'll mark. He was up there marking up pages like crazy. He said last night that these stories get chopped up by the end of the tour and can go through tons of rewrites just based on audience reaction.

Some of his stories cracked me up simply because I could see myself doing the things he described. Like telling a 4-year-old that his mother sold everything of his- toys, bed, clothes, even his name. That is so wrong but I would do that.

His work is funny. Naked is a good book and so is When You Are Engulfed in Flames. Santaland Diaries has some great stories in it. But what's even better is when he reads his works. It just somehow makes it funnier.

I'm fully inspired to start writing again. I think I have enough crazy stories in my family to give me material for a long while. And mom already approved long as I don't show anything to April. Ha.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

I've grown to love Bourdain by watching No Reservations on the Travel channel. The man is incredibly passionate about food albeit somewhat of an asshole from time to time.

I snagged the audio version of this book, read by Bourdain. It's actually an entertaining memoir about the underbelly of the culinary world. I really had no idea that restaurant kitchens could be as seedy and dangerous as a back ally in LA. This book was released in 2000 and in the end Bourdain swears he'll die on the line but obviously he's moved on from the kitchen to hosting food shows. Not that I'm complaining because I love the shows.

The reader treks with Bourdain through his discovery of actual food as a kid in France to his first kitchen job to the CIA to his many many restaurants that he worked at in his career. Reading some of this may encourage you to never ever ever eat in a restaurant again but you'll just have to get past that.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

If The Buddha Got Stuck by Charlotte Kasl

I wouldn't call myself stuck in a rut but I would describe my life as a bit chaotic. I have been thinking "is there more to this life deal that I should be doing?" even while moving forward towards some goals. I just didn't want to take the chaos with me.

This book is excellent! The reader is walked through how to recognize that they are stuck and then through the steps to get unstuck. I really appreciated the information and have been trying to put a lot of it into practice. Baby steps.

One piece of advice Kasl gives is to just show up to your life. To be aware of what is going on around you and to be aware and in tune with yourself. This is a surprisingly difficult task to accomplish. Even just sitting and chatting with friends, I know that my mind wanders to other things often. I'm making an effort now to be completely present. World of difference.

The reader is advised to live in reality, no more making up stories or not telling the truth. We're shown exercises to practice to connect with ourselves and with life.

Lastly, we're advised on how to get ourselves into action and just let go. Letting go is probably the scariest part, just like stepping off a cliff. Whatever the outcome of whatever our plans, we're advised to just accept them, even if things didn't go our way. But you have to move in order to change. You may lose something in the process of action - quitting a job you hate may lose you status and money - but you move forward into a life that you want to live in.

This book was very inspirational and while I have some ways to go in practicing what it preaches, I'm on the path and moving forward.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. DuBois

I've been listening to this book, courtesy of, for a while now. Not because it was boring or a bad book. Mainly because it's very in-depth and serious. To me, this is the kind of book that is almost impossible to read in one sitting.

As an aside, the reader for this particular book was extremely good. He provided music and was a great, steady reader.

This is a book containing several essays on being an African American among a white society. Published in 1903, it contains 14 essays ranging from initial slavery and Booker T. Washington to the songs of sorrow that are popular among the African American population. Some of the especially poignant essays are about young black men trying to make more of themselves, only to be pushed aside and treated very poorly by white people. Of The Coming of John and Of Alexander Cummell were two of the best essays, in my opinion.

All in all, this was an excellent book that gives insight into how the African Americans dealt with the lives they were given.

Also available on Project Gutenberg:

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Hemingway and Bailey's Bartending Guide to Great American Writers

This was a real short book and one that now has a permanent position in my home. We all know that some of the best writers were absolute drunks. Bukowski, Steinbeck, Hemingway. This book shares a little backstory of those writers along with drink recipes for their preferred adult beverage.

Bukowski favored a Boilermaker, which I'll admit to not knowing what that is. It turns out that it's something I really doubt that I would drink. It's a shot of whiskey with beer as a chaser OR a shot of whiskey dropped into a mug of beer. That would fell my sorry butt in a heartbeat. Although I do appreciate my whiskey.

Truman Capote imbibed in Screwdrivers, which I actually have the ingredients for and it sounds mighty good.

Alot of the writers were gin folks. That might be a staple that I need to add to my small bar. Although I'm usually a rum or whiskey girl, I'm willing to expand my horizons.

Obviously, I don't encourage the type of drinking that these writers did. But I see nothing wrong with partaking every now and again with friends or as a nightcap.


Friday, March 13, 2009

My Life at Grey Gardens by Lois Wright

I believe I'm beginning to get an unhealthy obsession with the Beales. My friend got me the documentary, Grey Gardens, for Christmas along with this book. I feel something familiar in the Beales.

Lois Wright spent 13 months at Grey Gardens with Big Edie and Little Edie, after having known them for quite a while. This book is basically her journal that she kept while she was there. For background, Big Edie and Little Edie are aunt and cousin, respectively, to Jackie O. They are part of the Bouvier family. Grey Gardens, the Beales house in East Hampton, became famous when the Maysles' did a documentary in 1976 (which is well worth viewing).

Grey Gardens is a run down home and Big Edie and Little Edie are the eccentric recluses that reside within. The home is run down enough that Wright is forced to wear a hat while walking in the house so she won't be hurt when rats or raccoons fall from the walls or ceilings. When, not if. The Beales do not have access to a lot of money so Jackie helps them out whenever possible.

I consider Wright a bit of a twit, myself, but then you would have to be somewhat twittish to live for over a year in Grey Gardens. This book does give you a little more background info than you get from the documentary and includes time surrounding Big Edie's death at age 81.

Read the book and see the movie. Both are pretty much worth the effort.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Portions from a Wine-Stained Notebook by Charles Bukowski

One of the great things about Bukowski's essays and short stories is that you can read one or two and move on. It can take time to read a whole book, for me at least.

This collection is Uncollected Short Stories and Essays, 1944-1990. Some of the stories feel vaguely familiar, like I've read them before. I think I just recall the stories from Buk interviews and documentaries.

There are lots of stories to choose from but my favorites are his Notes from a Dirty Old Man, Just Passing Time, and I Meet the Master. I Meet The Master is about Chinaski meeting Bante...or Bukowski meeting Fante. A good piece of work about finally meeting your idol that includes some standout lines:

"It was obvious: what happened to people, good people, bad people, even terrible people, hardly seemed fair."

"It's when you hide things that you choke on them."

I ended up with a book that was underlined and dog-earred. Bukowski really sums up himself with "Genius could be the ability to say a profound thing in a simple way."

Not a wasted word in sight.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Pluto Files by Neil DeGrasse Tyson

Tyson is always a favorite guest on The Daily Show and this book was discussed on his last interview with Jon Stewart. Library to the rescue!

There are 9 chapters to this fairly short book, all done with wit and an obvious love of science. Tyson goes over Pluto's history, how Pluto was received in our culture, and the descent of how Pluto lost his status as our 9th planet.

Apparently Americans really love Pluto, not only because of it's association with Disney's dog, but because an American discovered Pluto back in 1930 by New Mexican Clyde Tombaugh, a 24 year old farmboy. Tombaugh lived to his 90s to see how Pluto was about to be reclassified and fought it tooth and nail. Ergo, America discovered a planet and it shouldn't be taken away.

The trouble with planets is...a definition for planets was never ever set in stone. In the '00s, the International Astronomical Union began devising a concrete definition for a planet. In 2006, it was determined that Pluto did not meet the new definition - mostly because it didn't clear its own orbit of debris.

This is an excellent book that makes science a lot easier to understand and offsets the jargon with comical letters from outraged children. Tyson has an opinion at the end that suggests a new way of teaching kids about the solar system so that its not only planets that get their day in the to speak.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A Year in the Merde by Stephen Clarke

This is a fictional story about an Englishman brought to Paris by the VD company to open up some English tea rooms. This is pretty much a typical fish out of water story, with the English guy, Paul, trying to figure out how to get along with Parisians and learn the language and get laid. The latter being his main goal.

There were some laugh out loud moments and this was a pretty quick read. The plot was okay, somewhat disappearing with Paul's quest for French woman.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

new additions!

Through the library book fair I've added to my library! And only for $9
930 books total now. I just need time to read them all.

New additions:

The Brooklyn Follies: A Novel by Paul Auster

Mandala: A Novel of India by Pearl S. Buck

Resurrection Men: An Inspector Rebus Novel by Ian Rankin

The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende

The Sinister Pig by Tony Hillerman

A Quiver Full of Arrows by Jeffrey Archer

Main Street by Sinclair Lewis by Sinclair Lewis

From Rags to Bitches: An Autobiography by Mr. Blackwell

Friday, February 6, 2009

Just After Sunset by Stephen King

Stephen has been on my shitlist recently. Finally though, a book of short stories, exactly what I was craving from him. Luckily, this didn't disappoint.

King has a distinct knack for short stories, drawing you in and scaring the bejeebus out of you that he just didn't do in his later novels. In short stories, you have such a limited space to tell your story so you have to be a bit more adept with words. My favorite stories are the ones that plop you right in the middle of a situation and then pulls you right back out again. Haruki Murakami is excellent at this.

King manages to creep the reader (ME!) out by merely suggesting a situation. For example, the story N. gave me creepies that disturbed my sleep simply by telling a story of a guy going to a shrink. The story was told by the shrink's notes and depicted a patient who had severe OCD and firmly believed that a field he had went to was possessed. That's the story, big deal, right? No, the suggestion of what the character believed was happening was enough to put the thought into the readers head. If you look at the story, it's just what a patient tells his shrink - with some dire outcomes. But still, NOTHING really happens. But I was still creeped out.

I really liked Willa although King admitted in his notes it wasn't the best (it wasn't) and The New York Times at Special Bargain Rates was on par with Willa. What happens after death is a special playground for writers with vivid imaginations.

The Cat From Hell reinforced my sincere dislike of the feline variety.

The Things They Left Behind would have pushed me over the edge, had it actually happened to me.

And lastly, of my favorites, The Gingerbread Girl actually made me hold my breath.

Good show, old man. This was a really good collection of what you do best.

Friday, January 30, 2009

New Moon by Stephanie Meyer

Spoilers be here.....You've been warned.

I didn't forget what it was like to be 18 and I honestly don't remember anyone that age acting like Bella does. Maybe I'm only remembering the good stuff.

Bella and Edward, back again. Bella turns 18 and is just simply devastated that she is now "older" than Edward, even though technically he's 110 years old (right?). She still wants to become a vampire, human life and family be damned.

Things get ugly at a Cullens sponsored birthday party when Bella cuts herself and the blood sets off a fury of vampiric lust. Fast forward to Edward and the Cullens' leaving town to protect Bella. Fast forward to months and months and months of mourning and lifelessness from Bella.

That out of the way, the most interesting part of the book was Jacob Black. Bella ends up spending more time with him during Edwards absence and they turn out to be a good pair. Until Jacob starts acting all funny. I didn't even need binoculars to see what happened. Jacob's a werewolf!

I think I watched too much Buffy to be surprised by this series.

Scuffles ensue, old vamps are back to kill Bella, Bella's an idiot and gets reckless, Edward needs to be saved from dying and Jacob and Edward can't be around each other, putting Bella in a pretty crappy position. Ah, centuries old blood feuds. Really puts a damper on friendships.

I finished this one in a few days. Mostly because I've had surgery and have tons of time on my hands but once I got past Bella's teenage meladrama, the plot got pretty interesting.

The next one has been requested from the library. Although someone already spoiled me on the whole series (thanks bunches) I'll go ahead and finish it.

I'm still at a loss for the rabid fangirl thing.....

Monday, January 26, 2009

Watchmen by Alan Moore

I finished this just after surgery so I probably didn't retain everything.

Watchmen starts off with the murder of a superhero. That right there is absurd and flies in the face of what we know and love about superheroes! This hero looked pretty sketchy so we'll move on. We're in an alternate reality where Nixon is president and the Russians are about to declare war...nuclear war, no less. Superheroes have been outlawed, unless they work for the government and most are in retirement.

Watchmen follows the superheros who are left as they try to figure out who is killing them. We also have a nice subtext pirate story in here.

All in all, great comic, soon to be movie. I can see why the movie will be R as this is pretty violent, bloody and corpse-ridden.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Chuck Klosterman IV: A Decade of Curious People and Dangerous Ideas by Chuck Klosterman

Fargo Rock City was my first intro to Klosterman. It was pretty well written and funny. For the most part, the rest of his work is the same.

This particular book is broken up into 3 sections. The first section is a series of his interviews with famous folks that he wrote for Spin, Esquire, etc. He interviewed Britney, Bono, Jeff Tweedy from Wilco, Thom Yorke from Radiohead, etc. All of the interviews were entertaining. Mostly because, as in the Billy Joel interview, even if he really likes the person he's interviewing, he'll still be honest in the article.

The 2nd part of the book articles that are just his opinions about certain subjects. As in, which bands are rated right (not overrated or underrated), his very odd stance on stem-cell research (there needs to be more Super People), the upcoming war against robots, and so on. All pretty funny stuff.

The last part is fiction and frankly, I just skimmed it. His non-fiction work was more entertaining.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Your Heart Belongs to Me by Dean Koontz

I wonder when he dropped the R.

Koontz's new book came from the library cause his last few books have disappointed. Too disappointed to spend money on a hardback.

This new novel is about a wealthy internet bachelor, Ryan Perry. He made his fortune with a social networking site, Facebook....or Be2Do. Probably the same thing.

Along with his beautiful, golden girlfriend, Perry enjoys a life of sun, surf and whatever the hell he wants. He experiences a seizure of sorts while surfing. After a few more, he sees a doctor who tells him his heart is damaged and he will die within the year.

After a successful heart transplant, things turn topsy turvy as someone informs him in eerie ways, that they want his heart back.

There's obviously much more to the story but it's a good read and very intriguing. I actually read this within a day. Koontz's endings always fall a little flat for me lately, and this was just meh. The ride to the climax, however, was pretty good.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Not keeping up!

I haven't read much at all this year! I threw out Ron Paul's book because the library demanded it back and started a book by Chuck Klosterman. Hopefully I'll have something read soon.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

2008 is finally over....

While 2009 does not appear to be starting well, I'm still happy 2008 is past.

My goal in 2008 was to read 70 books, up from 65 last year. I made it to 72. So I suppose that means the 2009 goal is going to be 75. Whew. I'm going to have to quit my job soon just so I can read more. Does anyone want to pay me to read?

My list of books for the year is found at Goodreads, rather than reposting all of them here.

I ended up purchasing more books yesterday. That's what I get for meeting a friend at a bookstore. I bought Henry James' Turn of the Screw and Daisy Miller. Granted it was $2.99 but I realized once I got home that I had already printed out The Turn of the Screw from Gutenberg and I have Daisy Miller on my ipod from Librivox. I really need to pay more attention.

I also got Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I thought my friend had bought the last copy but she didn't. Whoot!

I also received a free autographed copy of Bloodstone by Nate Kenyon. He's on Goodreads and sent out an offer of his book. I never pass up free books. Unless they are Christian or Romance.

I'm reading Ron Paul's The Revolution now and that will probably be my first book of this new year.

Happy New Year!