Category Archives: humor

Review: No Hope for Gomez! by Graham Parke

12th June 2013

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*I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. Self-published through Outskirts Press.

 Gomez has a slight problem – ok, he has several problems. He’s absolute crap at managing the antique store his parents left him. The drug trial he entered for extra cash has left him unsure what is real and what may be drug-induced side effect, and he thinks he may or may not be in love with Dr. Hargrove, the lab assistant who administers his drugs each week. When another participant in the drug trial ends up dead, Gomez realizes he may be in much more trouble than he thought.

As part of his entry into the drug trial, Gomez must keep a blog and post about his experiences. As successive posts get stranger and stranger, both the reader and Gomez wonder if what is happening – his upstairs neighbor drilling holes into Gomez’s ceiling; Dr. Hargrove asking him to stalk her stalker; a customer at the antique store wanting to buy his tax documents – is actually real.

Yet what could easily become an unmanageable mess of a novel becomes a funny, human look at life and its idiosyncrasies in the hands of Graham Parke. Gomez creates tests to discover if he’s actually in love with Dr. Hargrove or if his feelings are just the result of the drug trial. He investigates the death of Joseph Miller, another drug trial participant. He attempts to assuage the eccentric behavior of his assistant Hicks, whose proclivities for order rival Gomez’s own increasingly chaotic life.

In the end, the truth about Gomez is much less interesting than what the reader begins to believe, but Parke is forgiven this as it is Gomez’s journey, and his truth that make the novel: What is and what isn’t? How much of what we see is perspective and belief, and how much is objective truth?

Add this to your Goodreads shelf (it looks like they’re hosting a giveaway until July 4!).

Review: The World’s Strongest Librarian by Josh Hanagarne

2nd May 2013

pg1*I received this from the publisher Gotham Books in exchange for an honest review.

Josh Hanagarne needs strength – both literal and figurative. Diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome in high school, Josh battles his ever-increasing tics without success for much of his life. Crediting his dad for getting him to hit the gym, and his mom for the introduction to the library, Hanagarne relates his journey thus far in The World’s Strongest Librarian.

From a young age, Josh appreciated books, eating marigold flowers in an attempt to mimic a hungry gopher in a children’s book. His mother took him to the doctor, explaining:

“A story went to his head,” Mom said….

“He likes books,” she said. “They give him ideas, though.”

“That’s the point, right?” said the doctor.

Once his tics develop, Josh becomes more and more self aware and angry at his uncontrollable body, until discovering strength training and oddly enough, revisiting the library.

Though I tend to approach memoirs with one eyebrow raised significantly, The World’s Strongest Librarian is the best of memoir writing. Hanagarne doesn’t know the answers. In fact, the memoir feels significantly like an exploration of himself instead of an explanation, and Josh tackles his syndrome, his Mormon background, and his experiences at the library in this improbable tale, making this quote from his friend Frankie Faires both apt and intriguing:

“We get better at what we do. If your body is your biography, then you are, at any given time, a perfect representation of all of your resolved and unresolved stresses.”

As much about the strangeness of a library as it is about the strangeness of a life lived with Tourette Syndrome, The World’s Strongest Librarian is one you should add to your Goodreads shelf.

Nook, Kindle Deals I Spy

28th February 2013

I remember when I first got my Nook, how excited I was to download cheap books…until I realized that they aren’t all that cheap. I searched for ways to find the less expensive books and was faced with a whole lot of half naked men and women in the “under $2.99” section.

But we all know we are on the hunt for a deal, whether it’s because we’ve enforced a book-buying ban, or the hubs/wife isn’t happy about another bookstore bag, or because we just can’t help ourselves and need a book right now.

Well, depending on what you guys think (let me know if you like this in comments), I’ll cull the “under $2.99” bargain bin and tell you which ebooks I loved and on which I’d just risk it. Hey, the most you’re out is one morning’s latte. 🙂

Via Goodreads

Via Goodreads

Lamb by Christopher Moore $1.99

Nook edition

Kindle edition

I remember reading this the first time in college after a teacher recommended it. Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Friend is easily one of the funniest books I’ve read. Ever. Because we all know about Jesus changing the water to wine and all that jazz, but what about those in-between years? You know, when Jesus was practicing how to raise things from the dead.

Lamb is a wildly fun and heartfelt look what could have happened and how Biff influenced Jesus.

Highly recommended.

Via Goodreads

Via Goodreads

The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey $2.99

Nook edition

Kindle edition

So…this is awkward. I just wrote a post on how ridiculous I think retellings of Jane Eyre are. And then I go and add it here. Let me say this: the cover of this one intrigued me long before I knew it was based on Jane Eyre.

Then, Natalie of Coffee and a Book Chick reviewed it.

At $2.99, I find myself tempted.

Via Goodreads

Via Goodreads

Ireland by Frank Delaney $1.99

Nook edition

Kindle edition

This is one I bought ages ago and haven’t read yet (I should actually go on a book-buying ban), but I thought it sounded amazing. It’s a stories about stories:

From Barnes & Noble: In the winter of 1951, a storyteller, the last practitioner of an honored, centuries-old tradition, arrives at the home of nine-year-old Ronan O’Mara in the Irish countryside. For three wonderful evenings, the old gentleman enthralls his assembled local audience with narratives of foolish kings, fabled saints, and Ireland’s enduring accomplishments before moving on. But these nights change young Ronan forever, setting him on a years-long pursuit of the elusive, itinerant storyteller and the glorious tales that are no less than the saga of his tenacious and extraordinary isle.

Tempting.

Via Goodreads

Via Goodreads

Elegy for Eddie by Jacqueline Winspear $1.99

Nook edition

Kindle edition

Oh, Maisie Dobbs, I love you so. Elegy for Eddie is the 2012 installment of the Maisie Dobbs series, and the storm clouds of World War II are gathering. In the midst of this is Eddie, a young man with developmental problems but a way with horses. When he’s killed in an accident that his friends think is anything but, Maisie determines to bring dignity and justice to Eddie. But even Maisie has to admit that sometimes justice fails in the face of something much larger.

My review.

Highly recommended. (Buy it, and then check out the rest of the series.)

Via Goodreads

Via Goodreads

Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin $2.99

Nook edition

Kindle edition

Tales of the City reads like the best of gossip columns. Mrs. Madrigal is the landlord of 28 Barbary Place, overseeing her tenants like Mary Poppins, but instead of a spoonful of sugar, she gives out the harder stuff, but only when necessary. Under her benevolent gaze, Mary Ann, a quiet midwesterner new to San Francisco; Michael, a gay romantic; and Brian, the swinger all have a chance to bloom and come into their own. Magical and addictive, Tales of the City is a fantastic reading experience.

My review.

Highly recommended.

Via Goodreads

Via Goodreads

The Financial Lives of the Poets by Jess Walters $2.99

Nook edition

Kindle edition

From Barnes & Noble:

A few years ago, small-time finance journalist Matthew Prior quit his day job to gamble everything on a quixotic notion: a Web site devoted to financial journalism in the form of blank verse. When his big idea—and his wife’s eBay resale business— ends with a whimper (and a garage full of unwanted figurines), they borrow and borrow, whistling past the graveyard of their uncertain dreams. One morning Matt wakes up to find himself jobless, hobbled with debt, spying on his wife’s online flirtation, and six days away from losing his home. Is this really how things were supposed to end up for me, he wonders: staying up all night worried, driving to 7-Eleven in the middle of the night to get milk for his boys, and falling in with two local degenerates after they offer him a hit of high-grade marijuana?

Or, he thinks, could this be the solution to all my problems?

I haven’t read this, but I’m intrigued, especially as Jess Walters is getting a lot of attention right now for the novel Beautiful Ruins.

Tempting.

P.S. I don’t make any money if you buy these titles. Just knew if I found good titles, you guys might enjoy them, too.

Review: The Death of Bees by Lisa O’Donnell

24th January 2013

Via Goodreads

Via Goodreads

*This book was sent to me by the publisher Harper in exchange for an honest review.

Today is Christmas Eve.

Today is my birthday.

Today I am fifteen.

Today I buried my parents in the backyard.

Neither of them were beloved.

Thus starts The Death of Bees, a book I started reading with a very perplexed, very one-eyebrow-raised expression on my face. Marnie is fifteen. Her younger sister Nelly is twelve and a bit…off. Their parents are dead, and within the first ten pages, there are graphic depictions of the burial described above. And when I say graphic, I mean it was lucky I was doing some bathtub reading, as I very nearly gagged when the sisters move their father, his fingernail comes off, and Nelly calls him a “beastly, beastly man.” But something compelled me to push down the bile and keep reading.

That something would be Nelly and Marnie. Marnie is hardened to the ugliness around her – parents who are rarely around and leave the girls to fend for themselves. Nelly, on the other hand, is tough but seems so fragile, bound up in a different sort of world, seeing her reality but trying to  change it at the same time. When Lennie, their elderly neighbor, reaches out to them, I was relieved but nervous, as Lennie has baggage of his own. This trio is an odd one to narrate a story. However, in the projects of Glasgow, this group is no worse than their neighbors, and as the three tell their story, you realize they are very much the cream of the crop, building a makeshift family without requiring all that much from one another.

Marnie wants to be young and carefree, but she also loves her sister and wants to protect her. Nelly is exasperated by Marnie and those around her who don’t understand who she is. Lennie is gay and once propositioned a young man, not realizing his age, but he, too, has lost someone – the difference is, his loss was of a beloved one. What holds them together is the simple fact that no one cares about them. Lennie is actively reviled in a community of prostitutes and drug dealers. Nelly and Marnie have been in foster care before and have no desire to go back, and no one is exactly banging down the door to check on them.

As each sees the wounds in the other, the process of healing begins, and they band together in an unexpected but fierce love, until the world around them attempts to point out the wrongness of their situation. A book of juxtaposition and unexpected nobility, The Death of Bees will and should shock you, but it should also make you question who exactly should be reviled and how we can live in a world where children would rather bury their own parents in the dark of night than face the alternative.

Add this to your Goodreads shelf.

Review: The Woman Who Died A Lot by Jasper Fforde & Giveaway

29th October 2012

Via Goodreads

*I received this book from the publisher Viking in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday Next lives in a world…slightly different than ours. Librarians are highly respected and well paid. The punishment for overdue library books is a bit stiffer than a quarter-per-day fine, and then there’s Bookworld, where the characters and places in books actually exist. After being injured in the line of duty as a literary detective, Thursday Next is recuperating. But that doesn’t mean the world is perfect. A mindworm has left her with memories of a daughter she doesn’t have and a tattoo on her wrist as a reminder. The Global Standard Deity is planning a smiting, and Thursday’s genius daughter, Tuesday, hasn’t quite figured out an anti-smiting technology. Thursday’s son, Friday, has problems of his own. The time engines have shut down, and the career he would have had has been replaced. Now he’s slated to murder someone in less than a week, and he feels powerless to stop it. Thursday has been instated as Chief Librarian, but she comes up against her enemy, Goliath and faces a 100% budget cut.

If that sounds like a lot, it is. In fact, it had been long enough since I read a Fforde, that, in the beginning, I felt like I was reading a very fun but very different language. Partly, though, that’s because Thursday and her family are confused. One day she wakes up with cuts and bruises and doesn’t know how she got them. Then, the mindworm with the memory of Jenny, the fake daughter, switches to Thursday’s husband. Her children wake up with signs of fights but can’t recall how they got them, either. What’s going on?

The Woman Who Died A Lot is so enjoyable. In many ways, Fforde’s writing feels much older than it is and in fact reminded me of a book I read when I was young, Rivets and Sprockets (though I don’t remember much about it). The sci-fi feel along with the humor and a touch of mystery is perfect, and I can’t wait to go back and re-read The Eyre Affair and pick up the other books in the series.

Courtesy of Viking, you get a chance to join in the fun. Just leave me a comment, and I’ll pick a winner by next Sunday at midnight (CST).

Check out other reviews or add this to your shelf on Goodreads.

**Congrats to Rebecca at Love at First Book who won a copy of The Woman Who Died A Lot!