Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore

A friend and colleague, Aidan, told me I should read something by Christopher Moore. Well I am now hooked!! THANKS AIDAN!! I picked up Dirty Job because I can loan out a book that has more than three copies and this one did plus the cover was pretty cool. The black cover shows an old-fashioned baby buggy with a little skull-faced baby in it, who has a teeny scythe and a big red bow and it glows in the dark (I found that out at three am).

Charlie Asher, an run of the mill guy, fell in love and married Rachel. Rachel liked the fact that Charlie was a cautious and stable guy, she loved him they had a daughter. Rachel died unexpectedly taking Charlie's spirit with her.

Now Charlie is a single father with a new baby named Sophie, to take care of. His sister Jane, who borrows Charlie’s suits, is there to help, as are two neighbors. The neighbors don’t speak English very well, but they adore Sophie. Charlie owns a sort of flea market type store. His employees are Ray and Lily who are eccentric characters within themselves.

The problems start when Charlie sees a guy in Rachel's hospital room dressed in a green suit who's supposed to be invisible. Other things start to take place. Things start glowing red, except no one notices. It might have helped if Lily had given Charlie the book that had arrived in the mail, but she was so sure that it had to be for her considering she is a goth and the book is named The Great Big Book of Death. It takes some time for Lily to realize that the book really belongs to her boss.

Charlie is now responsible for peoples' souls. And the red-glowing things are containers where someone's soul moves to after death. Well Charlie runs a Junk shop so there’s all sort of things that can be used. There are also some dreadfully disturbing creatures after Charlie, and possibly Sophie. So with all this going on Charlie must also be a business owner and a father. He has weird help including some of the other people who deal with the deceased but it’s a lot to take in.

The book is a very humorous but yet sometimes gloomy. I love the jokes about bathroom functions and anatomy.

There is so much going on and you're never quite sure what to expect. You wouldn't choose poor Charlie to be responsible for anyone’s soul but in the end you want him to win and the gross things have to lose. I can’t wait to read another one of Moore’s books. Definitely Five Stars!!

Thanks Aidan I can’t wait to see what you recommend next!!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Bright Shiny Morning by James Frey

To say I was a little bit afraid to pick up Bright Shiny Morning would be a lie. I was not afraid to read a book by an author rife with social, moral and ethical controversy but instead I was afraid of what people would think of me reading it. Well, I am so glad I grabbed this book from the bargain bin and at 1.97 it was a steal.

Bright Shiny Morning has managed to leave me floored. The book does not have just a single plot; but rather, contains several stories of people's lives and efforts to endure in modern Los Angeles. Frey tells of two teens that have left their broken homes and head to LA, living on the love they have for each other. He tells of a naive yet determined woman held back by her shyness. And he tells of a homeless man whose life ambition was to be an alcoholic, yet finds himself looking for answers. The book includes many more, interleaving the stories between the pages. He provides touching glimpses of these people's lives leaving readers wanting additional information.

James Frey’s wonderful storytelling captivates readers like they are there with him as the novel discloses the ugly truths of LA. Definitely glad I took the risk.

4 Stars !!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

I did little research before picking this book and I have not seen the movie. I located the book in the biography section of the bookstore and I was confused as I really thought this was a book of fiction.
A woman whose ambition in life was once to marry and raise a family finds her priorities unexpectedly changing in Elizabeth Gilbert's biography. Liz, as she liked to be called, was a woman who was thought to have what society deemed every woman wants a loving husband, a great career, 2.4 kids and a weekend house but occasionally one realizes that they haven't gotten what they truly wanted from life and that there dreams have changed. After a painful divorce, the Liz, who had previously looked forward to a contented life of a domestic goddess sets out to seek her true destiny and find herself by roaming first to Italy, where she learns to appreciate nourishment; then to India, where she discovers the power of prayer; and finally to Bali, where she unpredictably finds the meaning of true love.
I am forty years old and this book gives me hope that even as a stereotypical “woman” with a husband and two children, though no house in the Hamptons, there is more to life than what is in front of you. Definitely five stars……

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall

Again, drawing from my Cultural Anthropology tendencies when choosing a book I picked up The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall. I have always been captivated by the thought of having one male and several females in a relationship. I often wonder how a woman can handle knowing that at any given time her “husband” could be intimate with someone else. I myself have a possessive streak a mile wide when it comes to the thought of another female being intimate with my husband.

This book was wonderfully put together with characters that you could really love or hate if the case may be. The central family is deep-rooted in realism in a way that I have never seen portrayed in the many television shows such as Big Love or Sister Wives. The family portrayed in this novel is near poverty and must work together to make it economically.

The novel reminds me of what many households are coming to in today’s world. Extended families thrown together so that they can have some sort of comfortable monetary security in today’s world. A definite recommend to males….. Just so they can realize that females really do rule the roost. 

4 Stars…..

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Skeeter Phelan, made her home in Jacksonville, Mississippi after graduating college, she was prepared to begin a career as a writer. Skeeter acquires a part-time position at the local paper as a household advice columnist, and when she contacts an editor in New York about a possible job, the editor encourages her to write a book. This is during the `60s, the time of the Civil Rights movement, and Skeeter, whose black nanny mysteriously disappeared, decides to write about the black women who take care of white households and raise white children. This is of course very dangerous; blacks are beaten and killed for voicing their opinions and Skeeter knows the people she interviews are risking their lives. But beginning with Abileen and Abileen’s best friend Minnie, each of whom has their own contemptuous stories to relive, Skeeter eventually gathers enough interviews for her book. Skeeter was already ostracized because she had shown compassion for the blacks and is forced to keep this book a secret, especially from her best friend Hilly, who does not hold the same beliefs concerning segregation that Skeeter does.

This book, although imparting the intolerances of whites against blacks in the deep South, is, in the end, an uplifting novel about bravery and strength and the extent people will go to see that the truth is told. The description is excellent, from the portrayal of Aibileen, who raised 17 white children, to Minnie, who cannot control her mouth yet submissively accepts her husband's beatings, to Hilly, a disillusioned woman who looks upon blacks as pieces in a power game. We watch Skeeter grow from a discomfited young woman that was subjected to continuing constant criticism to a positive person ready to fight for what she believes in and commence on a new path. This book was enthralling from beginning to end.

4 Stars !!

Friday, December 10, 2010

American Rose by Karen Abbot

With pop star Christina Aguilara’s movie Burlesque being at the forefront of America’s mind it is a perfect time for a book about the Queen of burlesque to release. American Rose brings America the genuine story of the woman, her struggles and her triumphs.

Karen Abbott shows us a multifaceted Gypsy Rose Lee than the glamour of the musical starring Natalie Wood. By re-evaluating her life, through her family and the overbearing mother Rose Hovick, we see the timeline of how someone fights to become famous in America. Abbott provides the details of Gypsy’s life and the circumstance in which she was raised.

Many Americas do not know that Gypsy Rose Lee was one of its greatest and well known artists she was elegant, well read, and stronger for all that she had gone through.

The only drawback was the very confusing time line.

Four stars for sure !!

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Fire Inside (A Sidekicks Novel) by Raymond Rose

Since I enjoyed Better Together by Raymond Rose so much I decided to pick up another of his novels, The Fire Inside.

The Fire Inside is the first story in a series called Sidekicks. The story literally begins with a bang. The first paragraph has a gang called the Rook, a machine gun, a pistol, a knife and exploding windows. Already the story was off and running.

One of the leading characters is Karen. Karen loses her husband Bruce in a brutal killing but she eventually comes out on top and learns how to let go of the guilt and anguish and move on. The heroine is very well written and believable. In fact all of the superhero characters are easily understood and even easier to relate too even with their powers.

This is a story about personal struggles in a character motivated story but as I noticed with Raymond Rose’s first work there is excellent satire woven all through the story providing angst with joviality thrown in on the side.
I can't wait for the next installment.
Another five stars !!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Room by Emma Donoghue

Jack was a product of kidnapping and rape but his mother never let him know it. For the first 5 years of his life he lived in one room and slept in a wardrobe his only contact with the outside was a skylight. "Old Nick" would come by with a treat now and again but Jack didn't see him. The only way that Jack knew he was there was by the beep of the alarm system and the creak of the bed.
Jack's 26 year old mother, who "Old Nick" had kidnapped, raised her son the best way she knew how. She nursed Jack until they were freed and in fact even kept nursing for a few weeks after they were rescued. She had a schedule of games and physical education (which involved running on a track drawn on the floor, and using the bed as a trampoline). Jack's mother used Jack as an integral part of her escape plan in which Jack pretended to be sick and dead in order to escape. Though a little botched the plan worked and they were both rescued.
Jack had a hard time living life outside of his "Room" and even had a few things brought to him so he would feel more comfortable. At the end of the story Jack convinces his mother to go back to the room for a visit where be realizes that it is just a room and he can now begin to move on. Four stars for this heart wrenching story.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Little Princes: One Man's Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal by Conor Grennan

Again, the Anthropologist in me picked a book relating to another culture.

Conor had relatively accomplished quite a lot for a 29 year old. After graduating college he worked in Prague and Brussels, but after eight years he felt he needed to take a break, to do something cool and fun. Conor decided to seize a year of his life and youth and voyage the globe but he felt that he also needed to justify the trip so he decided to spend three months doing something for the good of mankind, eventually deciding to work with orphans in Nepal. Conor had read reports of civil unrest but he felt they were dramatized. Conor was at first disappointed in his choice of his volunteerism but eventually he had became completely fascinated by the children and their difficulties.

Nepal had civil hostilities for almost a decade; their own regime was rampant with dishonesty and unable to defend their people from the guerrillas who roamed the country. Families struggled to care for their family for even basic necessities, and to keep them from being snatched by the guerrillas to become part of the militia. Families became do desperate they fell prey to child traffickers who promised to care for the children and give them not only basic needs but also education needed  to become successful. The families paid hefty sums to make certain of their children's protection, not realizing that the traffickers took the children into Katmandu where they were sent out to beg in the streets or were sold into slavery. When it came time for Conor to leave for the fun part of his adventure he could not get the images of the children out of his mind. Despite the worsening political state of affairs Conor knew he had to return to Nepal to try and help the children.

This is an stirring story, one that is well written with Conor's wry sense of humor added. The story is about a young man learning about himself and what is truly essential in life.
I rate this book five stars !!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Mennonite in a Little Black Dress Rhoda Janzen

Having a degree with a major in Anthropology I picked up because culturally it sounded interesting. The book is about a woman, Rhoda, who is raised as a Mennonite, leaves the community, lives and marries in secular society and then proceeds to return to her family after her husband leaves her because he discovers he is gay. I was hoping for more religious and cultural connotations but the book contained nothing too heavy. Instead I found a mind blowing book about how Rhoda's religious rearing and family have affected her life that have ben put together in a way that is light hearted and laugh out loud funny.

The first half of the book is crammed with comedy. As the story continues the author starts to disclose a fuller image of her life, and her tragedies including her botched marriage. You will find that between the hilarity on the pages there is a good amount of misfortune.

If you like reading memoirs, or are curious about a different culture you should definitely read this book. Definitely worth all five stars.

A Gate at the Stairs Lorrie Moore

The story follow Tassie, an inexperienced college student from the midwest, who becomes a nanny for a couple who adopts a biracial child named Mary but this is the midwest after 09/11. Racial and class narrow-mindedness is very much the norm in the small town. Tessie though is blind to it and engages in an almost obsessive but brief love affair with a Brazilian student. Tessie becomes captivated with her urbane employers. Sarah the wife and mother is extremely energetic but callous and Eric the husband and father has a mysterious philandering air about him. They are very deficient parents causing Tassie to assume the responsibility of being Mary's main caregive/parental figure.

A Tassie gets caught up deeper in the Thornwood's her life starts to unravel her grades drop and the people who are closest to her are not who she thinks they are. She discovers her boyfriend is a facist and her employers harbor a sinister secret that threatens to fracture the relationship between Tassie and Mary.

The first hundred pages or so ramble on before the the conflicts become evident. Even after the tragedies emerge the story trudges through extensive, excessively descriptive scenes. The story muddles too many tragedies together creating a time consuming mash up.

The book is a tale of the love between the nanny and her charge. I am pretty certain that I would not run to buy another of Lorrie Moore's books but this one rates three stars.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Better Together by Raymond M Rose

I started reading Better Together at the recommendation of a friend and I am so glad that I took his advice. The story grabbed my attention with Paul's cab ride and by the second scene in the chapter Three Scenes from a Relationship I was hooked.

Annie and Paul were best friends who dated and then decided they were better as friends. After an amicable breakup and stints at separate colleges during a visit they lose their virginity to each other cementing their best friend status. Eventually the best friend status interferes with Annie's marriage causing her husband to leave her and deny their child.

Annie Paul and now Max, Annie's son, become a little family for a very short time. By page thirty eight I am tearing up as their happily every after is torn away by a freak tragic accident.The story continues as Paul comes to grip with losing the love of his life, best friend, wife all in one while gaining responsibility of a small child. The Story continues as Paul deals with becoming a father of a small boy that has only him for a guardian, a parental kidnapping and a budding relationship. The story is of a man who though devastated by life he picks up and moves on the best he knows how eventually leading him to a new happily ever after.