Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Stealing Buddha's Dinner by Bich Minh Nguyen

I picked this up through Bookmooch because it sounded interesting. Frankly, anything involving food is interesting to me. I read cookbooks for fun.

This is a memoir, an account of Nguyen's escape from Saigon to Grand Rapids, Michigan. Her dad made the decision to flee, in order to allow his 2 daughters a future that didn't involve bombings and war. They ended up in Michigan with grandma Noi and eventually, a stepmother Rosa and step sister Crissy. This is Nguyen's story - told through the lens of the 80's and the food of 3 cultures: her Vietnamese heritage kept alive by her grandma, her desire to be fully American and eat at McDonalds, and her stepmothers Mexican heritage, complete with tamales and sopa.

The 80's were an embarrassing decade, I know, I grew up in it. And I got a little secondhand embarrassment from reading this book. If only because I pretty much did the same things and tried to wear the neon and poof my hair up to the sky as well.

Nguyen was shy and "not pretty" so she kept to books. I related well, my best books were the Little House books and the descriptions of food from Ingalls kept me entranced as much as it did Nguyen.

Nguyen reconciles her childhood, understanding now all of the things that she couldn't grasp back then, like most people do when they grow up. It's a fairly quick read but McDonalds.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

As an audiobook, this was extremely well read by Stephen Briggs. Kept me entertained while knitting. Good Omens is about the Anti-Christ, good vs evil and prophet witches.

Aziraphale and Crowley are 2 angels on earth who quite like humanity and all our screwed-upness. Aziraphale is the angel on God's side, while Crowley is the angel on Satan's side. In the thousands of years of working side by side, they've grown fond of each other. So when it is time for the end of the world, neither of them are happy and make a plan to help avert it.

The child who is thought to be the Anti-Christ isn't, thanks to a mix up at the hospital. The real AC is having a grand time growing up with a normal English family and normal friends.

Things kick into gear when the Four Horsemen (War, Famine, Pollution - Pestilence retired due to the invention of penicillin - and Death) start the end of times. Everyone is on the hunt for the AC, to either stop the Apocalypse or to help it along.

Entertaining fantasy by Gaiman and Pratchett.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King

In the Afterword, King admits that these 4 short stories are harsh and hard to read. Telling us that up front probably would discourage readers from even trying this book. Short stories are where King shines. This book is no exception.

What's noticeable in this book is the lack of the supernatural. No ghosts, aliens, scary creatures that you can only imagine. What we have here is the pure evilness of the human person. And, frankly, that's even scarier than anything supernatural. King delves deep into the black hearts of people, showing how they live normally among us but do deeds we can't imagine.

We have 4 mostly longish shortish stories. We start off with 1922, a story about a farmer, his child and his wife. The wife inherits land from her father and wants to sell it off while the husband wants to try and farm it. What ends up happening is on par with Poe's The Tell-Tale Heart.

Next we have Big Driver which was just a horrifying read. An author goes to a book reading and signing at a non-descript library and ends up on a shortcut that was just... horrific. That's the only adjective I can come up with for this story.

Along comes Fair Extension which did have a little help from the devil, but really, the human in this story didn't need the help. He just needed a reason.

Lastly, A Good Marriage shows us that decades of living with, loving and being friends with someone doesn't mean you know the person or the gruesome hobbies they indulge in.

Eek. I think the vampires, werewolves and bogeymen are less scary than people now.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr

Audiobooks make it so darn easy to do other things and still get to read books you have in your "to-read" pile.

Wicked Lovely is a fairy book, and while I normally avoid fairy books, I was curious about this series. This is the story of Aislinn, who is a teenager with the sight to see the fairies around us. It was passed from her Grams to her mother to her. Apparently, fairies are little bastards who get angry if mortals see them, so Aislinn has to keep her sight a secret, even when the fairies are harassing mortals for fun. She is in love with her best friend, Seth, but is being stalked ("courted") by Keenan, the Summer King. He is convinced she is the Summer Queen, and will not take No for an answer.

Supernatural folk are horribly pushy. That might be the main pet peeve of mine with fantasy books. In the real world, this would be harassment and a crime to browbeat a girl into dating you (especially when you threaten to kill her boyfriend). But I guess it all is fair in fantasy land.

I was happier with the outcome, because Aislinn and Seth are two mortals who don't get shoved around. Looking forward to the next book.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Life by Keith Richards

Seeing as how I grew up in the 80s, where synthesized crap was king, I'm jealous of those that grew up in the time of good music. The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Chuck Berry, etc. Of the Stones, Mick has always scared me. The man is just a fright to look at. But Keith fascinated me. He's put voice to dictation (I don't believe he actually *wrote* this book) and is letting us in on his life.

Quite honestly, I don't know how much is true. He swears it all is, and it probably is, but the amount of Zorro-type moments he puts himself in seem....over the top. But I suppose if you carry a big knife around on a regular basis you will have more Zorro moments than the average citizen. Being strung out on drugs and quick to anger probably helps too.

Keith's book was a rough road to follow. I'm sure he didn't even read some of it, what with one page contradicting the very next page. But it was an entertaining path anyways. He has taken the life of a rock star and blazed a path for others to follow. He takes us through his childhood, his beginnings with the Stones, arrests, drugs, and surprisingly only 2 women that he had kids with and pretty long term relationships with. Several times in the book he promises to tell us more about events and stories but fails to do so.

He clears up the rumors of snorting his dad's ashes, climbing trees for coconuts and his drug habits (he had them, just not all the drugs that people said he took).

Maybe there will be a sequel so he can tell us more stories. He is a mighty fun storyteller.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Bad Blood by John Sandford

Another F*ckin' Flowers book. He might be topping Davenport as my favorite character...might.

Spoilers ahead:

We start this one off with a young adult murdering another adult. It's all very vague, there's no background or particular reason why this young man, Tripp, committed the murder. While Tripp is in jail, he is murdered. His death is made to look like a suicide by Crocker, one of the cops in charge of the station that night. Then Crocker is murdered, made to look like a suicide.

This trail of deaths prompts Lee Coakley, the lady sheriff, to bring in Virgil Flowers. The little area that Coakley is in charge of usually has maybe 1 murder every 5 years, so 3 in a week is more than they can handle. Flowers comes in and does his thing that leads him to another murder years earlier.

After a lot of digging, something even more heinous than the murders turn up. A church, called the World of Spirit, has a large congregation among the farmers but rumors of child abuse keep surfacing. Emmett Einstadt is the head of the church and pretty despicable.

It's a long haul to get the church taken down but well worth it. Full of frightening concepts that actually make the murders the tamest part of the book.

The Barefoot Book by Daniel Howell

I got this book as an early review from Librarything. It called out to me from the list of books because, as much as I like buying and looking at shoes, I don't like wearing them very often. I'm in my ever-present flip flops until the first snow arrives and then back in them once the snow is gone.

This book gives you 50 reasons to go barefoot, a no-brainer for someone like me, but pretty compelling for people who think wearing shoes is the best thing to do for their feet. If you think about it, your feet are not fragile little things that need protecting. They withstand our weight, absorb the shock of our walking and running, help us keep our balance, etc. Wearing shoes immobilizes the feet, not letting them absorb impact or expand the way they need to in order to help us move.

Women's shoes are particularly bad, and it doesn't take a PhD to note that. Just look at those things!! Of which I have many many pairs. Men's shoes are just as bad and running/athletic shoes are pretty bad too. You get an education with this book on how shoes are made and how they purposefully alter how your foot moves (twisted ankles, anyone?).

An interesting note, children's feet stop developing around age 8, so they really shouldn't be in shoes up until then. I've always always wondered by people put shoes on babies and children who can't walk yet. Just for looks, obviously, but let those feet run free! Baby shoes are pretty silly.

Even if you don't like being barefoot, read this book, it may change your mind about ditching your shoes. Even if it's for a little while.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

A Circle of Quiet by Madeleine L'Engle

Although I've heard of L'Engle, I don't recall ever reading any of her books, even the more famous Wrinkle in Time. I got this book on a whim and now it's one I won't part with.

Circle is book one of the Crosswicks Journals. I had, wrongly, assumed this was fiction but found that this series of books are pulled from L'Engle's personal journals. Judging from the journals alone, what a fascinating, intelligent, and insightful woman! I ended up writing in this book quite a bit and have already went back and re-read passages. She speaks of living out at Crosswicks and co-owning, with her husband, the local general store in a small village. She's a writer who teaches and she does a great deal of teaching in this book, but it feels more like great conversation with a friend. L'Engle also details her failures, the times where her books were rejected by as many publishers as they were sent to. If someone like that has trouble getting published....

While she has been deemed a children's author, she takes a more practical approach and claims she's just a writer. If she feels a subject is too harsh or complicated, she will make it a children's book because children are more open and not yet close-minded to ideas. One of her main topics is how to help children be children and how to not keep trying to "save" them from the world. Very interesting ideas are put forth that make a lot of sense.

Looking forward to reading the other journals in the series.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Gunn's Golden Rules by Tim Gunn

This is an instance where my Kindle is the best thing ever. I pre-ordered Gunn's book and boom! there is was on the day it came out. Love that.

This book is subtitled Life's Little Lessons for Making It Work. Naturally. As an avid fan of Project Runway, I often wish I had a Tim Gunn in my life. With this book, I kind of do. Gunn is a huge advocate of manners and I'm a somewhat less huge advocate of manners. We both agree that technology is getting in the way of people interacting with each other. People now live in their own little bubble that they forget there are humans around them and whoops, that was a human they just ran into without so much as an "Excuse me". Gunn realizes that he probably sounds like a schoolmarm and I do too. It's not that hard to just pay attention to the people around you, although it obviously IS that hard now.

Gunn shares many many behind the scenes stories, not just of PR, but of the fashion world. God bless the dishy man. He talks about his family, about how Make It Work came to life, and how to navigate the world ... nicely. While most of me agrees with him, I recognize that I suffer no fools and have no filter on my mouth. I have gotten much better at taking the high road in life, but I'm still apt to take the low road on occasion. A lot of Tim's advice I knew to be true. Yes, things would function so much better if people did have manners. Things would function better if I had better manners (although in today's society, I'm probably a schoolmarm too).

Tim is very frank about his past relationships and current single status. As one perpetually and happily single person, I want to give him a hug. Like he said, it's perfectly fine and normal to be happy and single. I've been preaching that for years!

I love fashion but often look like a clown dressed me, so I admire it from afar. Gunn is my mentor into the fashion world. May he keep writing books and being on my television to make this middle of Indiana girl feel like she can be fashionable and polite.

I Know I Am But What Are You? by Samantha Bee

The Daily Show being one of my favorite shows, this was a no brainer to read (or listen to, in my case). Bee read the audio book herself and, much like on the Daily Show, I ended going eh... or laughing hysterically.

Comedians are hit and miss with me for some reason. Bee IS funny, but I don't laugh out loud at, say, half of her work. I can chuckle, say "That was cute" and move on. But the other half has me laughing like a fool. When listening to an audio book in the car, without tinted windows, and laughing like a nut....well, I'm not surprised at the stares I get.

Bee illustrates her childhood in Canada and growing up trying to be an actress. Her stint as the lead in Sailor Moon, where she met her husband, Jason Jones, was funny and easily visualized. She runs us through her crazy cat lady period, her forced camping excursions with her dad and stepmom, and her trying times with gift giving. The funniest part was the Dude Ranch present for her husband. That part made me cry with laughter.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Lucky Man by Michael J Fox

Reading this book was a little difficult. Fox has Parkinson's Disease and with each description of the disease or it's horrible symptoms I just ended up thinking of my dad. Dad passed away in October 2009 from PD and I would love to have my dad back, shaky and unsteady as he was.

Fox takes us through his life, from growing up an army brat in Canada to breaking into Hollywood and the lean years before Family Ties became a huge hit. He started getting famous for movies, including Back to the Future and was celebrating just a little to hard. He leads us through his drinking problems, his first time seeing his pinkie tremble (a tell tale sign of PD) and then through his diagnosis and how he tried, and pretty much succeeded, in hiding PD from the public for 7 years.

He's definitely led a lucky life, considering his starving years as an actor didn't seem that long compared to other actors. Even with some box office bombs, he was lucky with his family life, marrying actress Tracy Pollan and eventually having 4 kids. Fox was diagnosed with PD in 1991 and came out with it to the public in 1998. Since then he's become an advocate for PD reasearch, creating the Michael J Fox Foundation with the hope it will soon go out of business. The MJFF funds research and fast tracks the path to a cure.

Fox is very open and to the point in this book. The last person he softens the blow to is himself.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Sizzling Sixteen by Janet Evanovich

There's a reason I quit buying Evanovich's books, instead relying on the library to help me see if I'm missing anything good. The answer, usually no, this time was kinda? Evanovich has recently switched publishers for a whopping $50M. For these books??? Surprising.

The Stephanie Plum series started off very good, with a pretty good plot and strong, funny characters to carry it off. Plum is a bail enforcement agent at her cousin Vinny's bail bonds office in New Jersey. She's a terrible agent, mostly relying on the Latin "hunk" Ranger to help bring in the deadbeats. All the while, keeping secrets from sometimes boyfriend, homicide detective and Italian "hunk" Joe Morelli. Keeping pace with her is Lula, an ex-hooker who is now the file clerk at the office, and Connie, the receptionist who can handle an Uzi.

In this book, Plum inherits a lucky bottle from her Uncle Pip, who had the misfortune to pee on a downed electrical line. Vinny is kidnapped by Bobby Sunflower and a ransom of $1.3 million is demanded. Hijinx ensue as the ladies of the bail bonds office scramble to get the money (after debating whether Vinny is worth it. He's not but you can't disappoint relatives). While there were several laugh out loud places, the spots that made you cringe appeared more often. After 16 books, can't Evanovich let Stephanie NOT be a complete moron? Can't she let Stephanie wisen up a little bit and actually become a tiny bit decent at her job? It's like the town and the characters are doing a Groundhog Day and repeating the same thing over and over but with different criminals.

I'm still glad I don't spend money on these.

Friday, August 20, 2010

A Touch of Dead by Charlaine Harris

This is a little collection of short Sookie stories that was published just after Dead and Gone, which explains why I was a little lost. I've only read up to Living Dead in Dallas, but since short stories are so easy to get through, thought I'd give this a try.

There are 5 stories. We have fairies, Dracula (not a fan of this story - the hero worship thing diminished Eric a little too much, I think), lucky insurance agents and naked men showing up on her door step. That must be a rough life.

All stories were pretty quick and cute and entertaining when you listened to the audio book.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Brooklyn Follies by Paul Auster

My first introduction to Auster's work is a good one. He has a wonderful way of writing and created a "story of survival" that might even make a cynic think that things can get better.

Follies is set around the time of Bush stealing his election and 9/11. But thankfully, not a lot of time is spent on national events. The majority of time is spent getting to know Nathan Glass, a 60ish year old man who comes to Brooklyn to find a quiet place to die. Recently divorced and a survivor of lung cancer, he's all but given up on himself. Enter Tom Wood, his nephew who he had lost touch with for years. Tom lives in Brooklyn as well and is in the same boat as his uncle, unhappy, feeling without redemption and unable to move forward.

Family is key to this novel, not just blood relatives but the strangers-turned-friends kind of family. Everyone is trying to survive and banding together, the motley crue in Follies does just that.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Postcards from the Edge by Carrie Fisher

This is a semi-autobiographical novel from Princess Leia. Suzanne Vale is an actress who is also a drug addict and begins the novel by ending up in the hospital having her stomach pumped from a drug overdose. She ends up in a drug rehab clinic and sends postcards to people that move along her story. The narrative changes or bounces around and listening to it in audio book form was really confusing. I got the gist of the book though: some people are horribly self absorbed and go on to try and destroy their lives to prove their point.

I don't gather that I'm supposed to come away with that but that's what I got. Vale irritated me to no end with the woe is me shtick. I understand that there are certain personalities that are like that but thankfully no one near me is like that. I'm not sure that relationship would last long.

If it is semi-autobiographical, as it's mentioned elsewhere, I feel for Fisher. That must be a hell of a life to lead, but at least now she has a sense of humor about it.

Stories: All New Tales

Edited by Neil Gaiman & Al Sarrantonio.

Twenty-seven short stories by a wide variety of authors. Some well known such as Jodi Picoult, Chuck Palahniuk, & Lawrence Block. I read all the stories but one: Stories by Michael Moorcock was one I just couldn't get through, and also seemed to be one of the longest. Sorry Michael.

All in all, this is a great collection of fantasy type stories that meld really well. Some of the stories were too abrupt, seeming to end before we even got started. Others were extremely well done, leaving the reader wondering and enthralled (the reader being me).

A few favorites: The Devil on the Staircase by Jo Hill, Parallel Lines by Tim Powers, The Therapist by Jeffery Deaver, Unwell by Carolyn Parkhurst, The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains by Neil Gaiman, The Stars are Falling by Joe R. Lansdale, Catch and Release by Lawrence Block & Let the Past Begin by Jonathan Carroll.

As Neil Gaiman says in the introduction, the best four words that show the power of stories is:

"...And then what happened?"

The stories in this collection leave you asking the same thing.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Lamb by Christopher Moore

I tried a Moore book a while ago and didn't like it at all. I saw this one at the library and with the subtitle of "The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal" I felt I needed to give him another try. So now I'm torn because I really liked this one and really didn't like the other. What to do?

This book is such a great idea. It takes the time that Christ (or Joshua) was a child up until his crucifixion through the eyes of his snarky, sarcastic (Biff invented sarcasm) best friend, Biff. Naturally this is all fiction but it has the stories most people know and were taught as young kids and Moore just kinda filled in the blanks.

Biff sees Josh for the first time when they are 6 with a lizard hanging out of his mouth. He gives the lizard to his little brother who then smashes it with a rock. Josh takes the lizard, puts it back into his mouth and voila! the lizard is alive again. Obviously, Josh has powers but also obviously he's a 6 year old boy. Biff and Josh become instant best friends.

The Gospel according to Biff takes us through Josh's journeys to find out how to be the Messiah. He finds the 3 wise men and spends years learning from from, along with Biff, who really isn't as devout as Josh and keeps falling under the lure of prostitutes and martial arts. Seriously.

As Moore says, "This story is not and never was meant to challenge anyone's faith; however, if one's faith can be shaken by stories in a humorous novel, one may have a bit more praying to do." Go read it.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

Another excellent travel type book from Bryson. This time he "rediscovers America on the Appalachian Trail". Bryson seems to be the type of person who just decides he needs to visit somewhere and goes. For this endeavor, he sees a path that marks an entry point to the AT and decides he needs to hike it. Although no one knows for sure, it's estimated the entire AT is over 2,100 miles long and takes you through all the states between Georgia and Maine. Personally, this would be my idea of hell. But Bryson, along with his old friend Stephen Katz, head down to Georgia and begin their journey.

They are not trying to be thru-hikers, people who hike the entire trail at one time. They are day hikers, people who do the trail in spurts. Several weeks at a time or just day hikes. As with Bryson's other books, he's well read on the AT and gives us all the statistics on how you can die out there. And those don't include the 9 murders that have taken place on the AT.

What starts out as a whim with determination ends with a "yeah, this is enough". Overall Bryson hiked 870 miles of the trail, a pretty awesome feat. He encounters wildlife but not the deadly ones he was hoping for (with a written guarantee of survival, mind you).

Even though I have no desire to ever hike, this book did make me want to head out to some National Parks and appreciate them while they are still here. Acid rain, loggers, developers, lack of funds to the Park Service, all these are threatening what wilderness we have left. It will be good to see them before they are gone.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier

This was a lovely audio book to listen to. It always makes me happy to come across such excellent readers. What made me happier was later learning that the remarkable women in this book were, in fact, real people. This is historical fiction but the people are real and did live back in the early 19th century.

Mary Anning and Elizabeth Philpot are the 2 main characters, 2 women who are unlikely friends due to class lines back in those days. Elizabeth is a middle class, educated woman; albeit a spinster. She lives in Lyme Regis with her 2 sisters, Louise and Margaret, also spinsters. I do despise that term but that was the terminology of the times. Mary is a working class girl in Lyme who has a knack for finding fossils. Her finds keep the family with some food on the table.

Mary stumbles across the full fossil of what she believes is a croc. As the story moves on, she discovers more and more crocs that she later dubs monsters. These aren't like any crocodile anyone has ever seen and it begins to bother people that there may be an animal that no longer exists. Does that mean that God let them die? A lot of religious questioning happens in the Lyme community.

The croc became known as the first ichthyosaur ever to be discovered ( Mary later found the first plesiosaur as well ( and went on to discover a great deal more.

The fiction part of the book revolves around Elizabeth's and Mary's friendship and some jealousy between the 2 when it comes to men. The fictional part was a good story as well.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

In A Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson

This book greatly upset me. I'm upset because Bryson has numerous books out and this is the first I've ever heard of him. Upset because he's a very good writer and I've never read his work before! Where have I been??

In this book, travel writer Bryson makes it his mission to chronicle the little paid attention to Australia. I took particular interest because my grandma is from Queensland and I have family there, but have never been there. Sad. After reading this book, well, I'm not sure I ever want to go. How can a country so beautiful want so badly to kill people? Between the horrendous heat and emptiness of the country, the amount of deadly critters in the water (including shells that attack you) and the amount of deadly animals on land (the majority of the world's most deadliest snakes and spiders are Aussies), Australia doesn't seem to want visitors. Despite all this, Bryson depicts an incredible country full of life that cannot thrive elsewhere. Full of history that is rarely acknowledged and full of people that are kind, cheerful and welcome you.

Bryson is enough of a geek that I can relate, finding museum after museum to wander about in, getting giddy joy from rocks and plants and just being in the moment during the days of driving and not seeing another soul. But it's not all fun and games. Bryson gives insight into the plight of the Aborigines, their past of not being real people to the white man, and their present of not being real people to the white man. He ponders over how the Aborigines appeared in Australia at all and elaborates on how Australia was populated (most people know the penal colony history).

I do want to visit Australia now. Even if it does want me dead.

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Deathless by Keith R. A. DeCandido

This is an original novel based on the Buffy the Vampire Slayer series, one of my favorite tv shows ever. The author has written several novelized versions of shows, like Buffy and Firefly. Seeing as how Buffy is off my tv forever, I thought I'd try out a quick fix in book form. It wasn't too bad. Definitely not the show but the author kept to each character's personality pretty well. You did almost think you were back at Sunnydale.

In this story, Buffy and the senior class deal with Ring Day, where the students get their class rings. Who knew that was basically mandatory? Wasn't in my school. Anyways, Buffy can't afford one and Xander works his butt off to afford one, since he believes it will make him part of the cool crowd.

Giles receives word that Koschei the Dealthless is about to be resurrected in Sunnydale. Apparently, he wasn't really deathless. But close. A sorcerer named Baba Yaga claims to have been the one to kill him and wants to make sure he doesn't come back. Enter in all sorts of characters from Russian folklore and it's one little Big Bad.

Good beach read, which is where I read it. Quick and entertaining.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

Toole only has 2 books published, having never published before his suicide. CoD only made it to light because his mother found the manuscripts and was persistent in getting it out to the world.

The title comes from a Jonathan Swift quote: "When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him." Ironically, the main character, Ignatius Reilly, considers himself the true genius and everyone who opposes him as the dunces. In reality, while Ignatius may be intelligent, he's so socially backward and egocentric and, well, loathsome, that you feel sorry for anyone who has to come into contact with him.

Initially, Ignatius is taken care of hand and foot by his long suffering mother. He's 30, morbidly obese (his hands are frequently referred to as paws), doesn't work and stays locked in his room watching TV or writing in his Big Chief tablets. At the beginning of the novel, Ignatius almost gets arrested by the police for being a shady character (in New Orleans, this must mean a lot of arrests) but really was just 'studying the crowd of people for signs of bad taste'. He and his mother then get in a minor car accident in which his mom, Irene, has to pay for the property damage. She finds her backbone and demands that Ignatius get a job and help out. And from there it really is as the cover blurb says "marvelous, madcap adventures in New Orleans".

The majority, if not all, of the characters in this book are annoying. But Ignatius is the one who would irritate the Dalai Lama. He's delusional, an incredibly self-involved liar who will do anything to get out of work. It's also quite possible that he's gay, with the hateful mockery of anything sexual, his very very strange masturbation .... uh, techniques, and his plan to have a political party made up of only homosexuals.

Dunces does have a great background in New Orleans and Toole's ability to capture the dialects are really a thing of beauty. Apparently there is a statue of Reilly on Canal Street. I'm sad to say I missed that when I was there but will go look for it when I go back.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Universe in a Nutshell by Stephen Hawking

Hawking is a genius. And a frequent Simpsons character. I am not a stupid person. And have never been a Simpsons character. Even though this book is supposed to explain physics to a general audience (ie. dumb it down), I do believe most of this went way over my head.

Don't get me wrong, it's a really excellent book for science geeks, minor or major. It even won a science book award in 2002. And Hawking does dumb stuff down the best that he can. The entire book didn't flummox me, just most of it.

Hawking went over everything from Einstein's Theory of Relativity to string theory to chaos theory to black holes to worm holes to time travel and star trek (he does have a sense of humor!). I really enjoyed his explanation of black holes and worm holes. He spoke about those in simpler terms that were pretty easy to understand. Time travel was confusing and mostly concluded to be impossible at a macro level but not impossible at a micro level.

With the star trek portion, we ventured into aliens and other forms of intelligent life. His take on that is pretty interesting. Along with this, I've been watching his show Into the Universe and he delves more on aliens there. And somehow makes it more interesting.

I think any form of science geek will enjoy this, even when it flies over their head.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Surviving The Dragon by Arjia Rinpoche

Firstly, this copy of the book is signed by Arjia Rinpoche ... in Tibetan, no less.

I've read the book from the Dalai Lama's perspective on the takeover of Tibet by China. Or the liberation of Tibet if you swing that way. Surviving the Dragon is Arjia Rinpoche's account of the same takeover from inside Tibet. He didn't manage to escape Chinese rule until the 90s, having survived 40 years under Chinese rule. China came into Tibet to "free" them in 1949. Arjia Rinpoche was 8 in 1958 when the Chinese came into his monastery and basically tore everyone's life apart under the guise of freeing them from feudal serfdom.

Arjia Rinpoche is the 8th incarnation and was found in his family's little nomadic hut and taken to Kumdum monastery to serve out his duties. This book starts there and takes us through all of the horrors of communist China and the humiliations and torture faced by many monks at that time. Arjia Rinpoche was lucky and rose higher in the political world, but many of his fellow monks, teachers and friends weren't so lucky.

Arjia Rinpoche now heads the Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center in Bloomington, Indiana and through his book, tells a fantastic story of surviving what couldn't even be imagined here in America.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Storm Prey by John Sandford

I am stupidly dedicated to the Prey series and I will probably always love me some Lucas Davenport. And Virgil Flowers. But I've been wondering: what happened?? Why is the Prey series now a run of the mill mystery?

Lucas is incredibly intelligent, shrewd and will kill you if he needs to. He used to go up against some intelligent, shrewd killers in previous books but the last few have been disappointing. He's having to go against some of the dumbest damn people ever. There's no mystery or challenge anymore.

The hospital that Weather works at is robbed with the pharmacy wiped clean. Someone dies in the process and everyone is up in arms. The Mack brothers and an inside doc are the criminals and they are all as dumb as bricks. And drug addicts to boot. Fabulous.

For a regular ol' mystery, this is good. For a Davenport book (with that Fuckin' Flowers even!!!) it's just not that good. Lucas needs better villians to go up against. No more stupid rednecks.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck

I'm searching my memory for a book more pleasurable to read than Travels with Charley and I'm coming up empty. Traveling the country with Steinbeck and Charley, the poodle, is pure joy.

Steinbeck is a gifted writer, somehow making every sentence quotable and something to linger over. I found myself going back and re-reading just to get the feel of the words again. Steinbeck sets out on a journey of America, in the 1960s, in order to get a feel of the people and how America has changed. Since he is a prolific writer of America, he feels he needs to reacquaint himself with it. Because you can't faithfully write about that which you don't know.

Steinbeck gets a custom truck with a camper attached to live in on his travels. He takes along Charley, his distinguished French poodle, for company. Their travels take them to Maine, through the midwest, the Dakotas, California, Texas, Deep South and back again. He talked to as many people as he could, without identifying himself, and tried to answer his own question of "What are Americans like today?" Try as he might, I don't think he found himself a sufficient answer.

We get to experience everything along with John and Charley. The giant Redwoods, the Badlands, Charley vs the bears of Yellowstone, and desegregation in New Orleans (and we get to be nauseous along with him at the violence and hatred).

Travels with Charley is worth lingering over, taking your time and being present every word along the way.

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

The Graveyard Book is a young adult/children's fantasy novel, made up of short stories that bring together the life of Nobody Owens. I say YA because I'm guessing this might bother some littler kids, but what do I know? Maybe kids are more cynical now.

Nobody was just a baby when his entire family was murdered. He escaped into a graveyard where the inhabitants shooed away the killer and adopted Nobody as their own. His new parents became Mr & Mrs Owens and his guardian is Silas. The Owens' are ghosts, having been dead several hundred years. Silas is neither dead nor alive and is able to leave the graveyard to acquire food and clothes for Nobody. (Gaiman later confirmed that Silas is a vampire -something I wondered throughout the book).

Nobody grows up in the graveyard, mostly avoiding live people, except for one little girl named Scarlett. But she moves away and once again, Nobody has just the dead to keep him company.

The book goes through many of Nobody's adventures, including going to school with live kids. He also discovers that the killer of his family is still hunting him and things get really hairy for Nobody.

Another excellent Gaiman book!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Changes by Jim Butcher

The latest in the Harry Dresden series, this one knocked characters and readers alike on their collective asses.

There will be spoilers here: beware.

The first sentence of the first chapter sets the tone for the entire book. Not only that, it sets the entire focus.

"I answered the phone, and Susan Rodriguez said, "They've taken our daughter.""

Yup, Harry is a father. Has been for about 8 years, since his last encounter with Susan, before she turned into a half-vampire from the Red Court. Susan failed to let Harry know this because, rightly, she recognized that neither her nor Harry's lifestyle was safe for a child. Susan had handed the child, Maggie (named after Harry's mom), over to a couple who already had kids. Still, it was pretty harsh for Susan to never mention this to Harry, and he takes it pretty badly. A wizard is powerful, a wizard carrying that much rage is downright scary.

Susan shows up on Harry's doorstep, with Martin in tow, to set into motion a plan to get Maggie back. Susan and Martin have been fighting their vampire curses and fighting the Red Court, almost like terrorists. Even though Maggie had been kept a secret, word got out to the wrong people. Namely, Arianna of the Red Court. The plan is to carry out a bloodcurse using Maggie to kill off everyone in her bloodline. Harry, Susan, and possibly Thomas and another surprise relative.

Harry and Susan have one hell of an adventure just trying to get to the Yucatan to save Maggie. They end up fighting in goblin territory for their lives, Harry meets up with some retired gods, the White Council is in a serious state of unrest, and Harry makes a possibly life ending deal.

The battles are extraordinarily written and well done. The characters just keep growing and getting better, and that makes it all the more sad when some of the well knowns have to perish in this novel.

The ending....not so happy with. It's a cliffhanger times 100 and we're left like this til April 2011. Not fair, Mr. Butcher. Not fair.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Study in Emerald by Neil Gaiman

I got this tiny audiobook (only 48 minutes) and listened to it in it's entirety on my drive home from work. I really love when Neil does his own voice work.

This is a short story based on Sherlock Holmes mysteries. We have unnamed characters, one having been tortured in the war in Afghanistan against the "gods and men", and one being a consulting detective for the police. Rooming together, the veteran notices odd comings and goings from the detective but never inquires about any of it, instead quietly retreating to his room when a visitor arrives.

We first see the detectives amazing skills when, while eating with the veteran, he announces that a guest will be joining them in exactly 4 minutes. When laying out how he knows this, it all seems simple. That if you just paid attention, you too would know this!

They are visited by Inspector Lestrade of Scotland Yard. He needs the detective's help with a touchy case and the veteran comes along. There is a murder most foul and the detective deduces that it was done by 2 men, one with a limp, and the the victim is royalty. Here's where it gets odd. Royalty, in this world, isn't human royalty. Ahhh, magic and "Great Old Ones".

Since it's a short story it does wrap up rather quickly but in a pretty satisfying way. Another excellent piece of work by Gaiman.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

What is the What by Dave Eggers

This is a novelized version of the life of Valentino Achak Deng. It took some time to read, not because it's badly written or particularly long, but because it's gut-wrenching. Deng was born in a small village in Sudan, called Marial Bai. He has a father, several mothers (it's common for the man to have several wives) and several brothers and sisters. I'm not even going to pretend that I understand everything that happened within Sudan during their civil war. Honestly, not a lot of it makes sense to me. I understand that Southern Sudan and Northern Sudan are split and Southern Sudan is ruled by a government in Khartoum, similar to Darfur. The government didn't to anything to help the people of Sudan and ended up making Southern Sudan and Darfur some of the poorest countries out there.

When the rebel groups (the SPLA) came together to fight the government, essentially all hell broke loose. Children like Deng became The Lost Boys aka Unaccompanied Minors because the majority of them who weren't killed or enslaved, watched their families be killed or enslaved by the murahaleen. The Lost Boys banded together, sort of, and walked for months to get to Ethiopia where they were hoping for shelter and food. They got a refugee camp, Pinyudo, that the SPLA picked through to help their ranks. Not a good thing.

After being forced from Ethiopia, when the president was overturned and the natives got pissed, they carried on walking to another refugee camp and then to another. At the last camp, Kakuma, Deng stayed for 10 years.

Interspersed throughout the book is modern day Deng, living in Atlanta. And being beaten and robbed and told to "Go back to Africa". Nicely patriotic.

The story is told somewhat matter of fact but still contains emotion and horror. It seems that Deng is able to describe how boys on the walk were eaten by lions on a regular basis and just dropped dead from dehydration and starvation or any disease imaginable in a "that's just the way it was" manner. Deng questioned often whether God had it out for him, as it does seem that he has terrible misfortune. Through everything, Deng is a survivor. That much is crystal clear.

Deng and Eggers have a foundation to help Sudanese and the web site explains more of what he is doing and how the war in Sudan is fairing.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A Fistful of Charms by Kim Harrison

Book 4 in the Rachel Morgan series, this one takes place almost entire out of Cincinnati. Rachel, having been "dead", is now the Alpha in David's pack. Since it's just the 2 of them, and Rachel is a witch not a were, it's all a formality. Members of other packs don't see it as such and end up challenging Rachel to a fight. She nearly loses without use of her magic and is determined to find a spell to change her to a wolf so she can fight again.

In the meantime, Jenks and family are still living away from the church, after not being told that Trent was an elf. Jenks' wife does come to Rachel and Ivy for help though. Their son, Jax, is missing and presumed with Nick, Rachel's ex. Nick, it turns out, is a common thief and got Jax involved in that life. Rachel and Jenks make up enough to go after them, in Michigan.

A true adventure starts, leading them into several joined packs of hostile weres and other vampires. Rachel ends up performing quite a bit of demon curses in order to save the world from the power of an ancient were relic.

A really great & fast moving book.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Lessons from the Fat-o-sphere by Kate Harding

I only knew my weight from the times I went to the doctor. Mostly, I just knew if my clothes were fitting or not. If they weren't, and I was to cheap to go buy new ones, I would hop on the treadmill just a little bit more than usual. Then I discovered online food tracking and "helpful diet hints". While I got down to a skinny weight, I ended up gaining it back (plus more when I had thyroid surgery and my meds got out of whack). Even though I've never been obese, or even heavy, I beat myself up on a regular basis. 5 more pounds, 10 more pounds....

After starting the Biggest Loser at work and having to weigh myself every week, I got even more down about myself. Two and a half months of diet and exercise and I lost 1 pound. Seeing my doc, we discovered my thyroid meds were again messed up so my metabolism was messed up. Bloody hell. At this point, I decided I wasn't dieting anymore. I missed cooking my big feasts and baking and well....eating. I love food, dammit. I didn't want to throw exercise out the window because I actually like my treadmill and feeling good afterwards. I liked the extra energy because obviously my thyroid meds weren't going to help me there.

Lo and behold, I found a review for this book, which is all about accepting your body for what it is. Bless you authors. The 2 ladies go over all the reasons to give up dieting and wishing for a body that you just don't have. Major studies have shown that your body will do what it needs to do, meaning it will stay in the weight range it's meant to be in, regardless of how much you yo-yo and push it to change. Diets don't work. Anything that alters how you eat, portion control, calorie restrictions, etc, just don't work. At least not long term. So why put your body through that?

This book encourages learning how to be healthy at any size, doing exercise that you enjoy doing and eating when you're hungry and stopping when you're full. Revolutionary! They also emphasize that food is neutral, it's not bad or good. It's whatever you want. There are too many messages from our culture out there telling women (and men) how they should look if they want to win at life and frankly, they're just wrong. Not everyone is meant to be a size zero and people shouldn't be humiliated to be the size they just are.

The authors don't want you to give up on yourself. They're just asking you to be kind to yourself and go out and quit worry about that last 10 or 15 pounds. You are perfect the way you are.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Just Kids by Patti Smith

Only knowing Mapplethorpe as the guy who did the explicitly erotic photographs, and Smith as one of my favorite singers, this book was pretty enlightening. Seeing Mapplethorpe through Smith's eyes softens the public persona of him some.

Smith headed to New York from New Jersey to pursue her passion, art. Along the way she met up with Mapplethorpe, who rescued her from a bad date, and the two become best of friends and lovers. Inseparable, if not physically then in spirit, they remained by each others side until Robert's death from AIDS in 1989.

While Patti traveled to Paris, Robert went on to discover different relationships with men. It seems, back in the 70s, that it wasn't always possible to be openly gay and and perhaps it was something that he continually fought with himself. He kept a physical relationship with Patti for some time despite the evidence that he preferred men. While I can't imagine how that could make for a happy life, denying part of who you are, being with Patti obviously made him very happy.

Smith describes living at the Chelsea Hotel and hanging out with the likes of Jimi, Janis, Burroughs, and Harry Smith. And a lot more; those two really got around. She also chronicles the "luck" and hard work that helped make Mapplethorpe and herself the legends that they are today.

Flirt by Laurell K Hamilton

Flirt is not a full blown Anita Blake novel, just a little novella to apparently tide the reader over til the next novel comes out. I wasn't aware that we needed tiding over but hey....

I did like that this novella was focused only on one plot and never veered off into subplots. It is what it is and that's it. Kinda refreshing.

Anita starts off having to turn down some clients because they want to raise their dead spouses for somewhat nefarious reasons. She has morals and she uses them! Naturally surrounded by her many boyfriends, she goes to lunch and explains how she was taught to flirt. There's too much time spent on flirting with a waiter so we move on.

One of the aforementioned clients won't take no for an answer and wants the dead spouse, dammit! Hijinx and sex ensue.

Same Anita but in a smaller dose. Not bad.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Living Dead in Dallas by Charlaine Harris

First, the cover of this copy is of the True Blood couple, not the original artwork. I have issues with that, it's a weird pet peeve. Second, the TB couple make me not want to see True Blood.

I'm not as psyched for this series as I am over other vampire series. Angel, anyone? I think my main complaint is that Sookie seems perpetually dumb and Bill (Bill the vampire, I can't get over that) is very possessive. It almost reminds me of Twilight and Edward. The possessive you-are-my-property vibe that these vamps give out is annoying.

This had a decent plot and some funny moments involving Eric, the other vamp after Sookie's affections...or blood. Quick read, probably a good beach read.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane

Spoilers ahead!!!

Since I heard the movie was good, and the book is ALWAYS better than the movie, I dug up my copy of Shutter Island. Read in less than a day, there's now no way I can go see the movie. The book was fantastic and I'll just be disappointed in the movie version.

Shutter Island is a place where the criminally insane are kept. Teddy Daniels, a US Marshal, and his partner, Chuck Aule, end up there investigating a missing patient. They talk to the staff, the patients and investigate the island as much as they can. What they come away with is: similar to Nazi's experimenting on Jews, the staff of Shutter Island is performing radical experiments on its patients and creating "ghosts". They are seeking Rachel Solando, who killed her 3 children by drowning them. She believes she didn't and that her children are alive and happy somewhere.

If someone is said to be insane, and they protest vehemently that they are not insane, does that show their insaneness? Teddy is on the verge of cracking, having lost his wife in a fire, set by Andrew Laeddis. He misses his wife and has more than once wondered why he hasn't died yet. Instead of suicide, he has a death wish. He knows that Laeddis is on the island and goes to get his revenge.

Spoilers are coming....beware.

Chuck isn't Teddy's partner. Chuck is a doctor at Shutter Island. Teddy's wife didn't die in a fire. Teddy killed her after she killed their 3 children. Which makes Teddy....? A patient named Andrew Laeddis. Who the hell saw that coming???

Dr. Crawley and Dr. Sheehan (Chuck) staged an elaborate role playing game for Andrew, in hopes that he would come to the realization of who he is. None of the what we read was real. It was all a play, written by Andrew, acting out his fantasies to avoid the reality of murdering his wife and letting his children die at the hands of their insane mother.

Andrew comes to his senses, realizing what he is. But we're not left with closure in this book as Andrew regresses back to Teddy and the threat of a neutralizing lobotomy is in his immediate future.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Bones of the Moon by Jonathan Carroll

Normally I don't read fantasy-type books but since this was lent to me by a trusted soul, I gave it a try. Bones of the Moon exceeded my expectations and turned out to be a really quick read. Or maybe I just read it quick. This appealed to me mostly because the major portion of the book is set in reality. One of the things that always irked me about fantasy books is the seemingly haphazard way things are named and the way things work. I realize that is the imagination of the author but mostly it feels like the plot, names, etc were just pulled out of someone's ass.

Cullen James, our main chick, is living a charmed life. Married to the man of her dreams, traveling to Europe, has a super gay best friend, and a baby. She starts having dreams of Rondua, another world far away from her own. She's traveling in her dreams with her son, Pepsi (really??) and they must collect the bones of the moon in order for Pepsi to become ruler of Rondua.

Cullen's dreams manifest over into reality and she needs help from her real friends and her fantasy friends to save her.

The story was really good and the fantasy part was slim enough to make me keep reading.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Julie & Julia by Julie Powell

The rest of the book title is 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen. Julie Powell comes to a crossroads in her life where she realizes that she's just a secretary and probably won't become the actress that she wants to be. She's nearing 30 (which isn't that bad of an age, come on), was told she'll have trouble conceiving and everyone and their mother is telling her how old she's getting.

Leafing through Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, she decides to embark on a year long journey of completing every single recipe in the book. Just something to do? Or searching for a purpose?

I listened to this book and was soon fantasizing about the recipes she described, with exception of the major animal ones, including killing a live lobster. I've always enjoyed just reading cookbooks and dreaming of having time to make more food. And of eating said food.

Julie continued her day job during this project, often cooking well into the night. Her and her husband, Eric, enjoyed a lot of good food and suffered through the ones that didn't go so well. Her husband was a trooper considering Julie seemed prone to hysterics and breakdowns during the year.

My next book to buy is Julia Child's book. Most of the recipes did sound too good not to make at least once.

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

The dog on the cover of the book implores you to buy it. I gave in to the dog's soulful eyes and purchased a book I've never heard of. I'm a sucker.

Enzo, the dog, relays the entire book to us. It never ever veers from Enzo's point of view and that's really for the best. The world seen through the eyes of a dog is an amazing one. Enzo wishes to be reincarnated as a man, but after reading this, I wouldn't mind being a dog.

Denny picks Enzo out of a litter on a farm and they become best buds. Enzo is a little jealous when Eve comes into the picture and acknowledges that he wasn't very warm with her. Once little Zoe arrives, they are one happy family. Enzo's uncanny sense of smell detects something wrong with Eve before she even starts showing symptoms. But, being a dog, he can't speak and tell her to go to a doctor. She finally does, but it's too late.

Denny's in-laws are horrid people and managed to really envoke some anger in me. The hell that Enzo and Denny are put through is unthinkable but somehow, if you keep your eye on the finish line, things manage to come through.

Denny is a race car driving so expect quite a bit of racing stories and metaphors. Enzo himself is quite the racing fanatic so he's happy to tell you all he knows.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Me by Katharine Hepburn

I'll be upfront in saying I never watched many Hepburn movies even though the woman is a legend. Me is a book of stories and I was interested in hearing those stories (read by Kate herself in her unique way). This isn't her biography per se, it's just personal stories from her life. She lived to be 96 so you know she had some stories to tell.

This books covers some of her childhood, Fenwick and growing up in Connecticut. She dearly loved her parents and siblings. In 1921, she found her brother Tom hanging by the rafters. It was presumed an accident but no one knew for sure. Kate also covers her early acting career. One obvious quality of Hepburn is her self-confidence. She never seemed to struggle for parts or self-esteem, even when she was "box office poison".

She saved Spencer Tracy for last. They met filming in 1941, already having known about each other. Tracy was married but Hepburn and Tracy had a complex relationship that lasted until his death in 1967. Listening to her account of time with Tracy, it showed that she put herself aside for the man she loved. The very last part of the book is a letter to Tracy, read with her voice breaking throughout.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Under the Dome by Stephen King

King started this book way back in 1976, when I was only 1! It's a behemoth of a book, at 1100+ pages, that is apparently the pared down version of his first draft. That's a little scary to think about.

UTD is a sincerely good King book. I was getting worried about him, having not been enthused about his newest work.

The story begins on October 21st, when an invisible barrier comes crashing down around the town of Chester's Mill, a small sock shaped town in Maine ( I think it's Maine). Dale Barbara is trying to head out of town after a 4 on 1 fight with some of the local thugs. He almost gets a ride but the young girl changes her mind and drives on, leaving Dale aka Barbie to walk on. He doesn't make it out of town before he's trapped by the Dome. Interestingly there wouldn't be a book if Dale had hitched that ride out....

Thankfully King provides a cast of characters list because the town holds a couple of thousand people and I believe we're introduced to almost all of them. Some of the most repugnant is Big Jim and Junior, a father-son duo that is dead set on turning the Dome to their advantage. The only word I have to describe them both is: Repugnant. Kudos to King for writing such vile and nasty people that actually makes you want to punch through the book and into their throats.

It's batted around that the dome is a terrorist act, a karmic intervention, aliens, and some maniacal person in town. I would be a terrible person to give away the end of the book since it's such a task to wade through, so I won't.

Even with it's size, UTD is surprisingly easy to speed through because King has his foot jammed on the gas pedal the whole way through.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Shadow is not necessarily a good man, but he's not nearly as bad as some of the other characters in this book. Shadow is serving time when we meet him for a robbery gone awry. He's deeply in love with his wife, Laura, and is nearing the end of his sentence.

The end comes faster than anticipated when Laura is killed in a car accident. Shadow is released and things just go downhill from there.

In this book, gods walk the earth. Anansi, from the book Anansi boys, is alive and well and very much still the spider god. Each god is kept alive and viable because people believe in them. Once people move on and quit telling the god stories, the gods become nothing.

Shadow is confronted by Wednesday and enticed to work with him. Wednesday is a god, turns out he's THE god. And Wednesday wants to start a war with the new gods, gods of tv, media, computers, you know the things people all worship now.

Along the way to war, Shadow meets up with Laura, who is dead but not really, and several other gods in disguise. Lucy Ricardo tries to entice him with her breasts and gods fall into crumpled heaps. The war is not what it appeared to be and Shadow does what he can to save both sides.

Probably should have read this before Anansi Boys but it didn't matter too much. American Gods is ripe with imagination and vision. A scary vision, but a vision nonetheless.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Boomsday by Christopher Buckley

As an audio book, I wasn't a fan of Janeane Garofalo's style. A lot of her character voices were just speaking louder.

As a book, I loved this one! First Buckley book I've read and I really like his style of writing. Boomsday is political satire based on the baby boomers retirement and the inevitable depletion of Social Security.

Cassandra Devine, labeled as a morally superior PR chick, leads the way in renouncing baby boomers squandering of Social Security. It starts innocently enough with protests on golf courses and leads to Devine and Senator Jepperson trying to pass a bill of Voluntary Transitioning. VT is basically advocating suicide once a person reaches 70.

Devine and Jepperson have a sketchy past, throw in Devine's "prick" of a father, the current president who swears like a sailor with Tourette's Syndrome, a reverend who heads SPERM and desperately wants to have sex, and the Pope, then you have a wild ride of a novel that is pretty damn fun to read.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman

Thankfully this book is not a sequel to American Gods because I haven't read that yet. But it's apparently along the same lines. Mr. Nancy is an old man who loves to sing and names things; and those names stick. He has a son who he named Fat Charlie and humiliated on a fairly regular basis. Fat Charlie goes to London, gets engaged and is persuaded to invite his father to the wedding. Finding his father had passed, things start to get a little surreal. Even by British standards.

Mr. Nancy is really Anansi, a spider god. Fat Charlie is told he has a brother, Spider. They eventually meet up for a reunion of sorts and havoc is wreaked.

Identities are stolen, money is laundered, people are murdered and other gods long forgotten emerged to get revenge on the hated Anansi.

Incredibly interesting and entertaining book. First one of the year that has really held my interest.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Continual Condition by Charles Bukowski

For a man who died in 1994 at the age of 73, Bukowski is still a prolific writer. Released in 2009, The Continual Condition is the newest book containing never before published poems.

Not being a poet, my gauge of how well I like a poetry book is based on how many pages I dogear to go back to and re-read. While I did really like the majority of poems here, I didn't dogear to many. Although it might just be my mood because I seemingly just picked the darkest poems as my favorites.

This Kind of Fire was one of my favorites, along with Perfect Silence, Dear Editor and Moving Towards Age 73.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Food Rules by Michael Pollan

A quick little book that gives exactly what it says. Food rules.

The basic, overall rule that Pollan gives is: Eat food. But less. Mostly plants.

That right there is enough to give you a headstart on the majority of Americans. According to Pollan's research, the Western diet is one of the all time worst diets in the world. And one of the ones almost guaranteed to kill you. To try and help save people from themselves, Pollan lists out little chapters of rules to follow when deciding what food to eat. Lest you think this is a put-down type of book, he does conclude with "Everything in moderation. Including moderation." This isn't a lecture. This is a "Hey, did you know this? Now that you do, you might want to avoid it"

Some of the rules include: Don't eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food. Would she know what Splenda was? How about Gogurt? Ravoli in a can?? Don't eat it. Avoid high fructose corn syrup, which is apparently in more food then we realize. Don't eat anything with ingredients a third grader can't pronounce. Don't eat anything with ingredients that you wouldn't stock in your pantry. Eat only foods that will rot.

Along with those, he advises to eat slowly. Don't eat until you are stuffed. And, for goodness sake, COOK. The last one, I'm happy to say, I do on a regular basis. I rarely, if ever, go out to dinner. I usually enjoy cooking a nice meal for myself. I know, for the most part, where everything comes from and how it was prepared. Cooking for family and friends and eating with them apparently is also another good thing I already do.

Good little book with some smart, common sense rules on how to eat healthy, even when it encourages you to splurge.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Every Which Way But Dead by Kim Harrison

Third book in the Rachel Morgan series. This one turned out to be very exciting and character-driven, rather than driven by plot. More is gleaned about each of the characters and that helps fill them out a little bit.

Rachel is faced with 2 major problems: owing the demon, Al, a favor - namely becoming his familiar. There's also a new player in the city, Lee, who is trying to take over the business of "supply and demand". Rachel, as a character, is probably at her best. She deals with the human side of misery, being dumped by Nick, and falling for another, the vampire Kisten. Between that and nearly getting killed....however many times, she manages to pull it all together and save the day. As per usual.

The action sequences are pretty explosive and each character gets a chance to open up just a little bit more. Enough to make you give a darn about whether they live or die.