Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Fourth Bear

By Jasper Fforde

Goldilocks has gone missing under very mysterious circumstances and it's up to Detective Jack Spratt, Sergeant Mary Mary and the rest of the gang at the Nursery Crimes Division to do the sorting out. The last ones to see her alive were a family of three bears who discovered her in post-porridge-eating/chair-breaking slumber in Baby Bear's bed. In the days leading up to her disappearance, Goldilocks was investigating the inexplicable explosive deaths of several competitive cucumber growers. To complicate things further, the murderous sociopathic Gingerbread Man has broken out of the nuthouse and is on the run leaving a trail of corpses behind him.
In his second Nursery Crimes novel, Fforde delivers his usual imaginative weirdness set in a world where the line between fiction and reality is blurred. With so much formulaic fiction out there, it's so enjoyable to read such a freshly unique novel. The plot is complex and entertaining. The story is peppered with surprisingly un-annoying puns. Although Fforde attributes his inspiration for the story to Swift's "..extracting sunbeams out of cucumbers.." line from Gulliver's Travels, I kind of wonder if the book was a giant set up so he could use the term "cuclear energy". You can check out Fforde's interactive site at

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove

By Christopher Moore

Val Riordan, psychiatrist in Pine Cove, California, has just been going through the motions, handing out prescriptions to her patients without really treating their emotional issues. When one her patients commits suicide, she freaks out, switches all of her patients' antidepressants to placebos and tries in earnest to get down with some real therapy. Unfortunately an enormous ancient sea monster has taken residence in the town that, by a bizarre evolutionary twist, hunts depressed animals. The monster can't yet return to sea as it was injured trying to screw a fuel truck. The truck responded to the amorous attention by blowing up. When taking refuge in the local trailer park, the monster is befriended and named Steve by local crazy lady and ex B-movie queen, Molly Michon. As townsfolk start disappearing and general weirdness descends upon Pine Cove, Theo Crowe, the pot fueled town constable is left to sort out the madness and figure out what the hell is going on.
The characters in this book are total trip. They're funny, flawed and weird yet very three-dimensional. Moore writes with great humor and humanity. Once the initial set up has taken place, this multi-character narrative never slows, it just zooms head long until the conclusion. You can check out his others books and his blog at

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Island of the Sequined Love Nun

By Christopher Moore

After drunkenly crashing his employer's jet while getting busy with a woman of questionable morals, pilot Tucker Chase has little hope for future employment. With impending litigation hanging over his head, he jumps at an offer to fly a jet for a Micronesian missionary. Though it turns out be a trip full of peril, he eventually makes it the island. The island is the home of the Shark people. The religion of the Shark people is a cargo cult. They worship a long departed WWII pilot and the half naked women painted on the side of his plain. The missionaries, a husband and wife team, aren't attempting to spread their religion to the native people but are instead using the cargo cult religion to control the Shark people, the wife occasionally dressing like the woman on the side of the plane. Eventually, Tucker figures out that there is a nefarious purpose behind the healthcare the missionaries are providing the native people.
In his signature style, Moore puts an everyday-type man in insane circumstances. His writing is funny, bizarre, slightly twisted but as always, warm and human. "Island of the Sequined Love Nun" is Moore's 4th novel but it was the first one I read. I picked it up solely because of its title. How could that title not stop you in your tracks? I'm glad it stopped me in mine. You can check out his others books and his blog at

Monday, October 1, 2007

The Da Vinci Code

By Dan Brown

Robert Langdon, Professor of Religious Symbology at Harvard, is called upon to investigate the murder of Jacques Saunière, curator of the Lourve in Paris. In his last moments, with his life draining away, Saunière positions his own dying body in such a manner to give clues pointing to Da Vinci's works. In order to sort out the mystery, many puzzles and brain teasers, many of which are in the art of Da Vinci, must be sorted out. It all seems connected to the search for the Holy Grail. Several story lines run simultaneously through book before coming together in the end.
I was surprised to discover that "The Da Vinci Code" was little more than an action/adventure book. With all the hype surrounding it, I was expecting something much more cerebral. It also seemed somewhat deficient in research. I'm not a religious scholar by any means and even I was aware of some very strong evidence that Mary Magdalene was Jesus's wife that Brown did not use, actually he left out some of the biggest clues. "The Da Vinci Code" isn't a bad or boring read, it merely a fairly basic action story. That and it has a few major plot holes you can drive a truck through. You check out Brown's homepage at

Saturday, September 29, 2007

They Call Me Naughty Lola

Edited and with an Introduction by David Rose

After hearing an interview with David Ross on NPR about this book, I had to get my hands on a copy. It's a collection of ads that have appeared in the lonely-hearts column of The London Reviews of Books over the years. Some are just really funny; others turn self-deprecation into an art form. "Shy, ugly man, fond of extended periods of self-pity, middle-aged, flatulent and overweight, seeks the impossible" reads one of the ads. Unlike other personals, it appears that the most important quality to show is a sense of humor. "Unashamed triumphalist male for the past 46 years. Will I bore you? Probably. Do I care? Probably not." Instead of the sadness and desperation that normally permeates personals, these are lively and creative. I found this book a lot of fun when read aloud, somehow sharing them adds to the joy. It's a great book for road trips, keeps everyone in the car amused and it's easy to pick up and down.

You Suck

By Christopher Moore

The eagerly awaited sequel to "Blood Sucking Fiends" picks up right where it left off. Jody has just turned her boyfriend, Tommy, into a vampire. He's a little pissed off that she didn't consult with him first. Amongst other problems, with Tommy being turned, they no longer have a ready blood supply around for snack. So they rent an extremely furry 35-pound cat from a homeless guy but cat hair is a nasty thing to have in your mouth. With the aid of duct tape and super healing abilities, they manage to shave the unwilling 35-pound cat. To add to the mix, The Animals, having blown the fortune they acquired in the first book, have returned from Vegas with a blue hooker named Blue who Tommy than accidentally turns into a vampire. On the upside, they luck out on the minion front with a freaky teenage Goth chick named Abby Normal but on the downside, the kinda-evil ancient vampire that turned Jody is not quite as squared away as they thought. So, pretty much standard Moore.
As usual, Moore's writing is hysterical yet human, supernatural crazy stuff going on, but mundane everyday pain-in-ass stuff thrown in to great comic value. It also covered topics I never really thought about, like, do vampires poop? You can check out his others books and his blog at

Blood Sucking Fiends

By Christopher Moore

In the city of San Francisco an ancient vampire is looking for something to amuse him. His entertainment of choice is to turn an unsuspecting individual into a vampire and just sit back and watch them try to cope. This time around he chooses Jody, a young redhead on her way home from work. She wakes up the next night under a dumpster with a large quantity of cash stuffed down her shirt, a gift from the vampire to keep things interesting. After figuring out what she is, she enlists the help of a 19-year-old wannabe writer/head stock boy of the Marina Safeway, C. Thomas Flood (Tommy), to take care of the things that she can no longer do during the day. Of course, the old vampire starts seriously messing with them. They must enlist the help of Tommy's raucous co-workers, known as The Animals, to escape the grasp of Jody's warped creator.
This was the book that made me fall in love with Christopher Moore's writing. It's just plain fun. There is something almost Shakespearian in the use of The Animals, sort of like the troop of crude mechanicals in A Midsummer Night's Dream. If you’re a fan of San Francisco, as I am, there are plenty of fun references that make the city come alive in your mind. As usual, Moore writes outrageously funny stuff about supernatural things, but still somehow remains both human and real. You can check out his others books and his blog at

Friday, September 28, 2007

Dirty Job

By Christopher Moore

Charlie Asher owns and operated a 2nd hand store in San Francisco. His wife dies shortly after giving birth to their only child, Sophie, and that's when things start to get weird. After a few struggles and mishaps he discovers that he is now a Death Merchant, as in he retrieves the souls of the recently dead or dying to give them safe passage to their next owner. As the years pass it becomes clear to Charlie that the forces of darkness are intending to rise up and lay claim to the world.
OK, laying it out like that, the book does not seem to be a barrel of laughs but I assure you it is written in Moore's usual delicious absurdity and the human quality that always seems to be present in his books is actually more pronounced than ever. Yes, it is a book about death and dying but it will still make you laugh. Moore writes gently and beautifully on the subject but still keeps his sense of humor. You can check out his others books and his blog at

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Eyre Affair

By Jasper Fforde

Welcome to world of Thursday Next. At home cloning kits make decanting your own pet dodo easy but as the jet engine hasn't been invented, most long distance travel is done by zeppelin. People are so obsessed with all things literary that the street gangs are Montagues and Capulets and door-to-door Baconians are out spreading the word that Shakespeare didn't write Shakespeare. The Crimean War is still going on and additional branches of law enforcement had to be created to deal with things too dangerous or weird for the regular police to deal with. Thursday is a Literary Detective and the original manuscript of "Martin Chuzzlewit " by Dickens has been stolen by the 3rd most wanted man in the world, Acheron Hades. The twists and turns lead her, amongst other places, onto the pages of Charlotte Bronte's "Jane Eyre". Long story how that happens, but it's possible in Thursday's world.
I wont say much more about the plot, you really need to read this book for yourself. It's a fabulous read for anyone, but it's especially delightful for those among us who read a lot. It's wildly clever and fresh. There is nothing else like it out there. It's also the door in the Thursday Next novels. Some novel series can be read in any particular order and enjoyed. This is not really one of those series. Each book builds on the next although they are all enjoyable in their own right. Where other books can become slow in their down time, as if nothing exists in the main characters world other than the plot, Fforde uses that time to further present the world Thursday lives in. There are no dull moments, not even in the footnotes, which the author uses in a truly unique manner. Fforde's writing is brilliant, intelligent and oh so enjoyable. There are more novels coming, check it out at Fforde's interactive site

Monday, September 24, 2007

Drop City

By T.C. Boyle

It's 1970 and a Californian hippie commune is being shut down by the state. In a burst of outrageous optimism, they decide to relocate to the wilderness of Alaska to experience total freedom and live off the land. Their story runs parallel to that of a young couple who just starting out in their life together in the Alaskan wild and happen to live in a cabin built not far from where the hippies have decided to set up their new commune. It's a tale full of questions about what it means to live truly free and truly with nature.
"Drop City" is not necessarily a fast read but it is colorful and entertaining. It paints an accurate portrait of the time of the flower child. Though realistic, the book has fun Peter Pan quality for readers but instead of the lost boys, you get to run off with the hippies and drop out of society, at least for 497 pages. To check out Boyle's official website, go to

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Complete Stories

Of Dorothy Parker

I have been quite surprised to discover most of my avid reading friends are completely unfamiliar with Dorothy Parker. Sure, they've heard of her, but few can offer much in the way of anything about her or her writings. Somehow they had missed out on her wonderfully sarcastic wit, her scathing remarks and her tireless timeless humor. (For my tirade on why I think she has been somewhat ignored see * below, otherwise read on) Parker was a master of word play. Once, when dining with friends, she was challenged to make a pun out of the work "horticulture", without missing a beat she replied, "You can lead a 'whore to culture' but you can't make her think." Parker stories are scathing and are peppered with characters you'll recognize as people you've come into contact in your own life. She mocks the small of mind, the racist, the vapid and the self-absorbed. I stretched out her short stories reading a few here and there. I thoroughly enjoyed the bite of her wit and while I didn't laugh out loud, I definitely smirked almost constantly.

*Now for my tirade. When reading about Dorothy Parker's life, it seemed oddly reminiscent of Helen Keller's. Keller was big fighter for women's suffrage, worker's rights and the rights of the poor. She was also a radical Socialist. The same people who praised her for surmounting being deaf, mute and blind later claimed she was at the mercy of her disabilities. She was no longer an amazing intelligent little girl they could write perky little pieces about, she had explored her world and had definite opinions about it. Keller continued her powerful writing and fighting for women's right to vote, but she now held opinions the conservative majority did not. Enter modern day, all that seems left of Keller's legacy is a sappy play mostly performed by high schools and a handful of nasty little Helen Keller jokes. So, I come to Dorothy Parker, another outspoken female. In addition to being a critic, a writer and a humorist, Parker was an outspoken civil libertarian, civil rights advocate and she helped found the Anti-Nazi League in Hollywood. That's quite impressive, especially for a woman during the 1930's. Upon her death in 1967, she bequeathed her estate to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Foundation. For brevity, I'm only mentioning a few bits of this amazing woman's life. To sum up, amazing women with strong opinions tend to slip out of our country's historical social consciousness. To quote Parker, "What fresh hell is this?"

Friday, September 21, 2007

Skinny Dip

By Carl Hiaasen

Joey Perrone didn't expect much from her philandering marine biologist husband, Chaz, and certainly not attempted murder. On a cruise to celebrate their second anniversary, during a nighttime stroll on the deck, he unceremoniously grabbed her ankles and flipped her over the railing. But Chaz is not a very good biologist; he was even confused as to which direction the Gulf Stream flowed which is a major if you're planning to throw a strong swimmer off a boat. The ocean current carried Joey towards land rather than out to sea and she also had the luck of stumbling across a floating bale of pot. When she neared land she was plucked from the water by an ex-cop named Mick Stanahan. Joey chooses to remain missing presumed dead and with the help of Mick seriously messes with her husband's mind.
"Skinny Dip" is a highly entertaining tale of revenge. It's a rare book where the protagonists hold all the cards yet the storyline remains interesting. This is a fun book to just sit back and see what happens. It's always nice when the bad guy gets what he deserves in the end, but it adds a little something when the entire story is nothing but the bag guy getting his comeuppance slowly and creatively stretched out.
If you'de like to ckeck out his other novels go to

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Brave New World

By Aldous Huxley

What's thought of a Huxley's masterwork paints a future where humans are created on assembly lines, the family unit no longer exists, rampant promiscuity is considered moral, and everyone's life from start to finish are crafted by the government. Children are decanted rather than born and raised in giant facilities where they are more or less brainwashed into perfectly passive but happy consumers. Even their intelligence is dictated by the government. Certain fetuses are deprived of vital nutrients and others are nurtured, their future careers already decided when they are still only a few cells. Day not going well? Just pop a few Soma pills and relax.
The book is fast easy read. I read "Brave New World" ever few years. I am forever stunned by the fact that this book was published in 1932. It's not that he accurately predicted the future that astounds me. The science he describes, i.e. the cloning, while has not occurred on the scale he describes is eerie in its somewhat technical accuracy. As for people drifting about their lives on anti-depressants being mindlessly entertained when not at work and perfectly happy to not think for themselves, well….. I have my own opinion on whether I think that Huxley accurately predicted that.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay

By Michael Chabon

It's 1939 in New York. Two Jewish cousins in their late teens, Joe Kavalier a gifted artist who has recently escaped a Nazi controlled Prague and Sammy Clayman, later shortened to Clay, a Brooklyn native who can put together a great story, team up to break into the comic book industry. It's the golden age of the comic book hero. Although initially taken advantage of by their publisher, they make their way to fame and fortune. Their most notable creation is "The Escapist" whose villain is a loosely veiled parody of Hitler.
This is big book (636 pages to be exact), and it is a great work of literature (took the Pulitzer in 2001), but fear not faint of heart, it is in no way a heavy or difficult read. In fact, it almost dances. It's colorful and engaging with plenty of historical tags. Chabon paints a picture of mid-century New York that's easy to slip into and the characters are both three dimensional and likeable. The themes of escape and good vs evil occur in multiple levels. And I can't figure out how he managed this little piece of magic, but Chabon made an epoch novel read like a comic book. Check out what he has coming next at Biff! Zang! Pow!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Stupidest Angel

By Christopher Moore

Christmas is coming to the sleepy seacoast town of Pine Cove and with it comes an angel to grant the Christmas wish of one child. Unfortunately, being so breathtakingly stupid, the angel gets it wrong and sets brain-sucking zombies on the Christmas revelers.
Some books make me laugh out loud. This book made me snort. I don't snort often. Christopher Moore has been making laugh for almost a decade, ever since I saw a book titled "Island of the Sequined Love Nun" and had to read it due to its title alone. After reading it I went out and bought his first three books. I've snatched up each of his other books as soon as they've come out. Part of the joy of Moore's books is the returning characters. You don't have to have read all his other books to enjoy them, but it adds something special, a little like bumping into old friends. "The Stupidest Angel" is one of my favorites. You can check out his others books and his blog at

Saturday, September 8, 2007


Carl Hiaasen

Roy is new to Florida but the local middle school bully has already started to torment him. On the bus, the resident bully is mashing Roy's face against the window when he sees a boy running shoeless down the street. Curious, Roy eventually tracks the shoeless kid down. His name is Mullet Fingers and he an ax to grind with an upcoming pancake house. They're planning to build the restaurant on land inhabited by endangered owls. With the help of Mullet Finger's stepsister, the trio moves to thwart the national pancake company's plan.
I'm a Hiaasen fan. I've been enjoying his dark humor for years. When I saw that he had written a book for young adults, I was intrigued. I was curious to see if his wit would translate into youth literature without losing its bite. I was pleasantly surprised. The story line was fun. The characters were amusing. I had a great time reading this book. Hiaasen's humor was present and intact. "Hoot" received the Newbury Honor. If you'de like to ckeck out his novels for adults go to

Thursday, September 6, 2007


By Chuck Palahniuk

Helen Boyle is a real estate agent making a quiet fortune reselling the same haunted homes over and over again. She has very expensive tastes, few morals and the ability to kill people just by thinking a certain poem at them. Carl Streator is a reporter doing a series on crib death. After visiting these scenes of infant death and seeing the same book of nursery rhymes open to the page at multiple locations, he starts to put a few things together. He, like Helen, had discovered the culling song, a death lullaby from Africa meant to ease starving children during famines, mortally ill individuals and the elderly into a peaceful death. Soon he discovers he only needs to think the poem at someone and they drop dead. Helen and Carl team up with Mona, Helen's flaky wiccan assistant, and Oyster, Mona's boyfriend and eco-terrorist, to road trip across the county to destroy every remaining copy of the culling song.
There is a lot going on in this book. Symbolism is everywhere and there is a lot of questioning about the true nature of morality in the modern age. In an over populated, environmentally wounded world, do right and wrong alter? But all the big stuff aside, I really enjoyed the details. A real estate agent deliberately seeking out homes where the walls bleed, dead babies cry in walls and phantoms circle the dining room so she turn them over multiple times is a concept that will keep me giggling for a long time. At one point Carl kills a Dr. Laura-type just by listening to her morally judging on the radio. He then "accidentally" kills anyone who comes onto the radio to mourn her lose. The song just flies through his brain. True to Palahniuk, the book is bizarre from beginning to end and a great read. Go to for the official Palahniuk site.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007


By Chuck Palahniuk

Seventeen aspiring authors are brought together by the words, “Writer's Retreat: Abandon your life for three months." They’re rounded up and placed in an old theater where they are to perfect their writing. Though there is enough food and amenities to make their three month stay comfortable, in hopes of making a more dramatic and newsworthy entrance back into the world, they each, without the knowledge of one another, sabotage everything. Each person takes out what they feel they can live without, whether it’s their least favorite food or the washing machine. Eventually they have no food, no heat, no light, nothing to sustain life. As the characters waste away, they each tell an autobiographical tale. They eventually resort to cannibalism and as people start dying, each survivor gleefully reflects on how they will have one less person to share the fame and the money from the movie rights after they’re rescued.
If you get queasy easily or offend easily or are timid hearted in any manner, you should never read anything written by Palahniuk. The first tale, “Guts”, has caused people to faint at numerous readings. That being said, each chapter is divided into a poem, one of the characters stories and little more of the narrative in the theater. It seems more like a clever way to sting together a bunch of short stories than an actual novel. The poetry is quite bad, but the stories are funny and outrageously disgusting. It’s a little like Canterbury Tales on acid. There isn’t a single character that is not completely morally reprehensible. Most tales reveal that they jumped into the retreat to avoid the repercussions for their sins. I kept reading this book, as with most of what Palahniuk writes, out of grim fascination. Go to for the official Palahniuk site.

Saturday, September 1, 2007


By Will Ferguson

Edwin de Valu’s life isn’t exactly a dream. He doesn’t really like his job or his wife. He is an editor in the non-fiction department of a middling publishing house. Under pressure at a meeting to come up with something to fill a sudden hole in their publishing schedule, he pitches a self help book that has recently turned up on his desk with a score of other un-publishable works. The book winds up being published and, to his horror, the book actually works. It actually makes people happy. A consumer based society is not a good place for happiness to break out. Everyday more and more people are turned into bland, passionless, yet happy smiling zombies. As society breaks down, Edwin is desperate to find a cure or, at the very least, to kill the author.
The book takes a very long time to get going, probably about one hundred pages. It’s not that the reading of it slow going, it’s just that the plot takes a while to get going. After that though, things get really interesting. Ferguson’s style is wonderfully satirical. There are parts that really made me laugh out loud. Ferguson also sprinkles in numerous literary concepts that add to the fun. To see what he has come soon go to

Friday, August 31, 2007

The Copper Beech

By Maeve Binchy

In the Irish village of Shancarrig the little school house is dominated by a huge copper beech. Generations of children have passed through the little school. When they leave the school it’s a tradition to carve their initials into the trees trunk before they go off to start their lives. Some will move on to higher education, some immigrate to England in search of work, others come up with different plans all their own. The story is broken up almost into novellas with each one telling the story of a different resident of Shancarrig. Most characters are in search of love but they’re also looking for financial success, freedom from family and freedom from the opinions of others.
The Cooper Beech is a very comfortable read. It’s not fast, nor is it slow. The characters are gently flawed and easy to like. With each characters tale, the village and its occupants became more colorful. The story ends up just right. This is not an exciting story but it’s not meant to be. It’s an enjoyable read. To see what else Binchy has written, go to

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


By Bob Flaherty

A blizzard of massive proportions has descended on 70’s suburban Boston. The roads have been closed to all civilian vehicles. It’s a good time to just settle in and take it easy. But if you’ve got extremely important business to attend to in Braintree, like say the acquisition of “one exceedingly fine ounce of Dominican Sin”, then you need to form a plan. The Gullivan brothers, John and Gully, both in their early twenties, are out of weed and if they can just get to Braintree, their problems will be solved. Well, not all their problems, there is their mother dying in the final stages of cancer at the local hospital. So, they, of course, do the logical thing. They borrow some big magnetic Red Cross insignias and Red Cross arm bands from their friend, Doody. With their deceased father’s old delivery truck emblazed with the insignias and their arm bands in place, they make their way out onto wintry streets. But looking like a rescue worker can attract some attention in a snow locked city, mainly from people in need of rescue. Thus they embark on goofy adventure that includes the cops, the terrifying priest from their childhood, old school friends, an injured pet and a crazed knife wielding sociopath looking for his ex-girlfriend.
It took me a couple of chapters to get into the flow of this book. I, for some reason, kept expecting John to become the voice of reason against his brother’s wild plans. Once I realized that there was no voice of reason between the two, I just got comfy and enjoyed the ride. All the little details, the gas station food, their taste in music, stories about old childhood friends, local tragedies, help to create the Gullivan brothers’ neighborhood which is pretty much their world. While not really a laugh out loud type book, it is an occasionally giggle out loud type book. The tale is sad at times, heart warming at others and always very human. It’s a coming of age story in its own small way with a love story thrown in.

Friday, August 24, 2007

The Big Box

By Toni Morrison with Slade Morrison
Illustrated By Giselle Potter

The Big Box is the story three children, Patty, Mickey and Liza Sue, who are energetic and imaginative. Their parents, teachers and neighbors think they’re too energetic and imaginative and can’t handle their freedom. So, they put them in a big box that has a door with three big locks. Their parent visit once a week and drop off all sorts of candy and toys. But none of the materialistic things makes the kids happy. They need their freedom to be happy.
This is a delightful book for adults but I’m not sure how well kids would like it. The locking up kids just for being kids might be a little worrying. Some of the concepts are little cerebral. I found the childlike illustration charming, but I’m not sure what I would have made of them as a kid. I do think it would make a lovely gift to any young adult or adult.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Olivia Joules and the Overactive Imagination

By Helen Fielding

Meet Olivia Joules. She’s a thin attractive freelance fashion journalist who desperately wants to be taken seriously. But her looks and her overactive imagination have kept her firmly in the land of fluff. When sent to cover a face cream launch in Miami, she becomes convinced that an attractive exotic playboy is really an al-Qaeda operative on a terrible mission.
I would love to tell you more about the story line, but that would ruin a rather entertaining read. Part of the fun of this book is trying to figure out if Olivia Joules is right or just a nut.
I don’t dig too many chick lit books. They’re frequently shallow, uninteresting and completely lacking in humor. Although wildly improbable, this book is entertaining, fresh and it does not take itself seriously. Things do become a little odd in the later chapters of the book. Olivia's love interest suddenly starts calling her "Baby" every other paragraph which gets a little embarrasing. And the plot gets a little too absurd, but still enjoyable. It is cross between a romantic comedy and an international spy thriller. It’s a great book to read on vacation.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Big Over Easy

By Jasper Fforde

Here’s the deal. Humpty Dumpty has fallen off his wall. Humpty Dumpty has had a great fall. But was there foul play involved? That is what Detective Inspector Jack Spratt must figure out. Jack works for the NCD, Nursery Crimes Division, of Reading along with his Detective Sergeant Mary Mary, who really is quite contrary. Spinning gold into straw scams, pipers kidnapping children and psychotic gingerbread men fall under their jurisdiction. The investigation into Humpy’s death leads to discovery of a huge conspiracy.
I adore this book. Fford has created a fabulous alternate world that is easy to fall into. For a tale so full of nursery rhyme characters and plots, the story line is deliciously complicated. It’s as intricate as any crime drama and has a distinct noir feel to it. I couldn’t stop giggling at Fford’s cleverness and word play. Reading this book is like taking a vacation from reality.
Check out his rather amusing home page at

Friday, August 17, 2007

Memoirs of a Geisha

By Arthur Golden

The setting is Gion, a geisha district in Japan, in the 1930s. It’s story of Chiyo, the daughter of a poor fisherman. Due to the impending death of her mother, Chiyo is sold to an okiya, a house for geisha and her sister is sold to a house of prostitution. Hatsumomo, the only geisha presently active in the okiya, sees that Chiyo is attractive with unusual gray eyes and may someday be competition. Hatsumomo does everything within her power to sabotage Chiyo’s chances of becoming a geisha. She remains a maid until she is taken under the wing of a very successful geisha by the name of Mameha. Through Mameha’s careful plotting, she does become the geisha Sayuri. The story follows her rise to becoming a successful geisha, her search for love and the effects WWII has on her world.What I liked about this book was not so much the story line, but the way it sucked me into Chiyo’s world. I felt like I could see the streets of Gion. I felt like I could hear the rustle of silk as the geisha rushed from one tea house to another. It can be a bit slow at times, but overall, a truly lovely read.

The Count of Monte Cristo

By Alexandre Dumas

This is the tale of the sailor Edmond Dantes, who, when right on the brink of becoming the captain of a ship and about to marry a woman with whom he is madly in love with, has the bad luck to betrayed by multiple individuals and thrown in jail. He then has worse luck and is sent to the uber scary Chateau d’if, a giant fortress-of-doom type prison. There he meets a fellow prisoner who teaches him all about math, physics, history and the existence of a giant treasure. After the death of his teacher and a dramatic escape, he seeks out the big beyond belief treasure and learns that one of his betrayers has married the love of his life, his father is dead and everyone believes him to be dead. Dantes, using his new found vast wealth, creates a new identity as a count and goes about wreaking havoc in the lives of all those who betrayed him.
I found this book to be a surprisingly fast read. My only stumbling point was when I was introduced to rather large cast of characters when Dantes reenters society as the count. I had to flip back and forth a little to figure out who was married to whom and who was whose kid and where everyone’s place was in society. After I figured that out, the story sped back up again. I truly enjoyed this tale of revenge and occasionally caught myself giggling manically. I was left a little lukewarm by the ending, but the journey was an absolute hoot.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Geek Love

By Katherine Dunn

Geek Love is the story of a carnival family by the name of Binewski. The mother, Crystal Lil, and the father, Al, decided that the best gift to bestow upon their children is the ability to make money simply by being themselves. Therefore Lil takes all manner of drugs, poisons and even radioisotopes during her pregnancies to produce freaks. Whether the children are born alive or dead, they still become part of the show. The living ones perform various acts depending on their deformities, the dead ones floating in jars. That’s not the story, it’s just the framework.
The story is told from the perspective of Olympia “Oly”, an albino, hunchbacked dwarf and third child to be born alive. The family also includes Arturo “Arty”, born with flippers and an evil disposition, Iphigenia and Electra “Iphy and Elly”, Siamese twins with two separate upper bodies but sharing one set of legs starting at the hips, and Fortunato “Chick”, who was born with remarkable gifts rather than deformities. The story is as unusual its characters. It includes massive sibling rivalry, cults, self amputation, mutilation and just a dash of incest.
Geek Love was a National Book Award finalist and, in my opinion, definitely deserved it. The story is as intriguing as it is bizarre. The Binewski children view normal people as freaks and themselves as normal. I was so drawn into their world that a few times when I stopped reading, I was startled to find myself a normal person living a relatively normal life. This is not a tale for the squeamish, but I highly recommend it. It is a truly unique book with fascinating characters.