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