It ain’t easy – trying to PMP

Okay, so I am obviously not so great about updates here.  One reason, honest injun, is that I read really fast and I don’t want to half ass it.  The other reason is that I am busy studying for a certification exam I’m taking at the end of June.  It seems like that’s a long ways away but I am totally freaking out.  Hooray for freaking out.

So, in the interest of giving you something to look at, I’m going to do another quick round up of books I don’t think really deserve their own posting.  This means that books like “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians” and “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” won’t be covered in this one, but I promise to get to them this week with a better write up than these others are going to get.

So, enough begging forgiveness (did that sound like begging?  no?  well, it kinda was) and on to what little content I am throwing up today.

Oh, did I mention I’m not going to put up pictures?  Well, now you know.  🙂

*****

The Road To Omaha, Robert Ludlum.

Remember a bit ago when I did The Road to Gandolfo?  Same guys, back for more.  Same crazy General Hawk, same wussy lawyer Sam, different scam.  In the first one, they were kidnapping the Pope.  In this one, it seems that someone’s gotten their hands on some old agreements between the US Government and some little unknown Indian tribe and it just might be that that Indian tribe owns Nebraska.

Worth reading, a bit long at times.  It’d be a good beach/plane read where you leave it for the next person.  Strangely enough, the lady who read this before me did not agree.  In very nice cursive it says “Yuk! Waste of time.  Feb 93” on the inside cover.  Maybe, like a fine wine, it just needed some time to age.

The Road To Omaha by Robert Ludlum, 570 pages

*****

Greywalker, Kat Richardson

You know how sometimes you buy a book because it’s cheap?  Yeah, well, that’s my excuse.  Harper gets attacked and comes out with this weird ability to be in both our world and some other one where nasty half dead things lie in wait.  Oh yeah, this also means she can see ghosts and feel evil and so she decides to play with the vampires and witches and stuff.  It’s also set in Seattle.

Is is a great book?  Nah.  It’s mildly entertaining.  If you’re looking for the while “normal world meets other” stuff, check out the Sookie Stackhouse books.  They’re way more fun.

Greywalker by Kat Richardson, 341 pages

*****

The Broken Window, Jeffery Deaver

I almost feel bad throwing this in here because I really like Deaver’s Lincoln Rhyme series.  Have you seen that Bone Collector movie with Angelina Jolie and that other totally cute guy whose name I can’t remember now?  It’s also got Queen Latifa in it although in the book her character is actually a gay guy.

ANYWAY, this is that same series.  And this latest novel doesn’t really disappoint although they are semi formulaic crime mysteries.  In this one, people are being killed and other people are set up to take the fall.  As usual, it’s who done it.  The twist in THIS novel is that it’s obvious someone has access to all sorts of very detailed information about people and their lives, so it looks like it’s OMG COMPUTERS and BIG BROTHER all up in here.  Still, these are good characters and pretty good stories and I’d actually recommend any of the series.  Might want to read them in order though.

The Broken Window by Jeffery Deaver, 596 pages

*****

L.A. Confidential , James Ellroy

You’ve all seen the movie.  You know what it’s about.  In case you haven’t seen it, it’s a “corruption in LA in the 1950’s” novel.  See the movie, it’s good.

The book?  Eh.  It’s okay.  I actually didn’t get anything additional out of it, but then it’s been a long time since I’ve seen the screen version.  There are a lot of characters, and I found myself getting a wee bit lost… but I kind of blame that on trying to memorize silly equations for this damn test and having no gray matter to dedicate to this one.  On the other hand, I now know and understand that the PERT equation is (P+4M+o)/6 and that it’s the only estimating method that’s a weighted average… and that’s going to be on the test, not who Mickey Cohen talked to, so that’s okay with me.

L.A. Confidential by James Ellroy, 496 pages.

Published in: on May 30, 2009 at 3:21 pm  Comments (3)  
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The Road to Gandolfo

gandolfo1 Say you’re a decorated war hero whose time has come – you’ve become a liability and embarrassment to the red, white and blue.  And say you’re looking for a way to… oh, pay them back.  So, maybe you’d hook up this this lawyer dude you know who is also in the Army and is almost at his tour of duty.  And you might include your 4 former ex-wives.

Then maybe you’d decide to kidnap the Pope for the ransom of $1 per Catholic in the world.

Well, then maybe you’d be General MacKenzie Hawkins, lawyer Sam Devereaux, Hawkins Harem and Pope Francesco 1.  And you’d be in for a hell of a ride.

*****

So, I think I’ve seen half of The Bourne Identity.  I don’t know if I liked it, really, and I tried to read those books a long time ago and wasn’t thrilled with them.   So when the online book club that I pretend to be part of if I like the sound of the book chose this Ludlum book I wasn’t overly excited but thought I’d check it out.

This book is HILARIOUS.  It’s not what I think of as typical Ludlum.  It’s sort of a smart 3 Stooges debacle led by a mastermind of hysterical proportions.  It’s clever.  So clever.  Ludlum has really created these larger than life characters and put them in a pretty preposterous position.  I mean, who decides that they want to kidnap the Pope?!  And not only wants to kidnap the Pope but actually goes through all the planning and fund raising to do it?

Mac and Sam are a strange pairing – sort of a Gibson and Glover Lethal Weapon type of partnership.  I’d love to see a movie made from this book but I can’t see much of a way this would happen.  Which is too bad, because this is a really funny story and I’m planning on picking up the sequel “The Road to Omaha”.

I know this is a quickie review, but you really just need to read it to get the feel.  It would be a great beach read and since summer is coming up it might be worth grabbing if you have a trip planned.  It’s short, so plan accordingly there.  🙂

This one is hard to classify, but I’m going to label this one as “spy” although maybe it’s not exactly.

The Road to Gandolfo by Robert Ludlum, 291 pages

Published in: on May 1, 2009 at 8:27 am  Leave a Comment  
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The Toxic Toadburger Conspiracy

toxiccover To date, 14-year old Eddy Tumble’s greatest triumph consisted of scoffing a ‘fat lad’ quarter-pounder in 39 seconds. A truly breathtaking feat which had decimated Graham ‘gobbler’ Griffith’s record by a clear three seconds and a slice of gherkin.

How ironic that only a few weeks later, a rogue roast potato in his windpipe caused Eddy to collapse unceremoniously into a large bowl of lukewarm bread sauce.

Brought back to life by a race of accident-prone aliens, Eddy now finds himself fighting the diabolically deranged owner of Gut Bucket Holdings, Marcellus Guzzle, a bloodthirsty hit-gran, and an unhinged magpie with an unhealthy appetite for inflicting pain.

Death would undoubtedly have been the easier option!

– From the back cover because, let’s face it, I’m not sure I could have written it better!

*****

So one day I was at Half Price Books, perusing the kids books (don’t judge) and came across one of the best TITLES for a book I’d ever seen – The Toxic Toadburger Conspiracy.  Then I looked at the cover and knew I had to own it.  I wasn’t disappointed with my purchase!  This is a damn silly book.

The premise is that a fairly average boy with an iron stomach needs to save the world from this horrible fast food man who has already managed to convince the world that we should be eating toads.  Yuck.  There are also some aliens, a hamster, some penguins (in some.. unexpected colors), various sealife and lots and lots of toads in this book.  Gotta tell you, they should make this into a Broadway play if only for the costumes they’d need!

Now, I dunno about how they work in the UK- where this book is from- but here in the US we don’t kill people in kids books.  Oh, wait, I know how they work in the UK – they *do* kill people in kids books!  Woo hoo!  I’d guess that you’d probably consider this a ‘young adult’ title, but let’s face it – the only people who want to read about toadburgers are kids or adults who frequently indulge their inner child.  Or who are ruled by their inner child.  Or something.  All I’m saying is that this isn’t really going to appeal to the “Gossip Girl” or “Twilight” crowd.  Maybe your 11 year old boy would like this one – as long as you don’t live near crows, toads or psychopathic Grandmas.

Is this the next great YA title?  Nah, it’s from 2005 so it’s obviously not.  But it’s lots of fun and heck, it’s got a great title.  Ha!

The Toxic Toadburger Conspiracy by Ian Hills, 365 pages

Published in: on April 21, 2009 at 8:56 am  Comments (6)  
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Starring: Thursday Next

Okay, so I went on a vacation and then got a cold and in the meantime I finished a SERIES of books.  Now, I could list them all out in a strange sort of backwards posting like I did for the Phoenix Guards one, but that kind of annoyed me so I’m going to throw them into one MEGA POST!

Here we go, grab a tea and a scone or something because this is going to be long.

*****

lost Lost In A Good Book is the second in the Thursday Next series that started with The Eyre Affair (I did that one back near the beginning of the year).  Our protagonist, Ms. Next, lives in a world that’s evolved parallel to ours – where ducks are something theoretical and dodos have been brought back from extinction.  She works in Special Operations (SpecOps) as a Literary Detective – responsible for checking out things like forged Shakespeare works and other literary crimes.

Her first book brought her into contact with the Goliath Corporation, the megalomanical world conglomerate that wants to own and control everything and, surprisingly enough, they aren’t through with Thursday yet.  In Lost In A Good Book, Goliath is back to its old tricks of manipulation and has “time-slipped” Landon, Thursday’s husband, in order to “convince” Thursday to a) retrieve their agent from The Raven where he was left after the last round of adventures and b) reveal the secret to entering books in the first place.   In order to get her husband back, Thursday not only learns to read herself into books, but also joins up with Jurisfiction – the quasi-police force inside books.  Oh, and there’s also mammoths, a jar of lentils which indicate entropy levels, Ms Havisham, the Cat Formerly Known As Cheshire and a new enemy who has the ability to make you forget things to contend with.  Seems that Thursday’s got her hands full.

*****

well

Thursday’s back; preggers and tired and in need of some down time.  It’s hard when everyone is out to get you, you know?  What’s a girl to do except join the Character Exchange Program and have a little downtime in the Well of Lost Plots – a place where book ideas are made and die.  Still a member of Jurisfiction, but on the lamb from Goliath, Thursday fills in for “Mary”, a supporting character in a crime story that’s not being read and not really going anywhere.  Meanwhile, she can’t help feel like there’s something or someone that she should be remembering but it’s probably not that important, right?

All is not well in literary world, however.  First, people are being murdered, the Minotaur has escaped and “UltraWord” (the newest version of the Story Operating System) seems to have some flaws.  There are also some issues with the Generics (“blank” characters, just waiting for spots in a story) and the nursery rhyme and Oral Tradition folks aren’t happy.   Looks like this isn’t going to be much of a vacation after all.

*****

rotten

It’s time to get out of the book and back into the real world.  And this time, Thursday’s not alone.  She’s bringing her son Friday, Pickwick the dodo and her son Alan… and Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark.  Which is probably good, seeing as how Ophelia isn’t happy with her current role and Hamlet’s wishy washy inability to make decisions and she’s busy making some changes.

Thursday is determined to get Landon back this time and she gets her time traveling, half non-existent father to help out.  Amongst her mother’s incessant baking, Thursday manages to get entangled in the Hamlet mess, a disgusting prophet, a gaggle of Shakespeare clones and the world’s most important cricket match.  The Minotaur is still holding a grudge and Landon keeps flickering in and out of existence – just another day in the life…

*****

sequel And thus the first is the end.  Or something.  Or maybe not!  But we are to the last in the series.  Thursday and Landon and their kids, Friday, Tuesday and Jenny are all living mostly happy lives – Tuesday is a genius, Jenny is at a slumber party somewhere, and Friday is your typical surly teenager.  The problem is, Friday is supposed to be out inventing time travel or something and his parents can’t get him to get up before noon.

Thursday has left SpecOps and is running a carpet business with some of her old colleagues… except that the carpet business is a front for SpecOps work.  Which is a front for Jurisfiction work.  Which is just as crazy as ever.  This time, Thursday is responsible for training some new recruits: Thursday1-4 and Thursday5.  See, Thursday licensed her story and now there are books where she is a character… just let your brain bend a bit and accept it.  And don’t worry, Goliath is still lurking and the Minotaur is still trying to kill her.

So, once again it’s up to Thursday to save the day.  Can she stop Thursday1-4 from exacting revenge on her creator, can she help Landon write a great book and can they make Friday actually get motivated to fulfill his destiny?

*****

I told you it was a lot of words.  Okay, here’s my wrap up.  I love these books.  Fforde is painfully clever and twists and turns a story in such a charming way that you can’t help but want to read these back to back.  I put the last one down and really wished for another one.  Some things that I thought were completely genius (in no particular order)

1)  the idea that Thursday considers and rejects that she is a character in a book

2)  the rational way that The Big Over Easy works into this series

3)  the literary cameos, from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang to Anna Karenina in footnote gossip, are brilliant

4)  the carry over from book to book, although each story is also stand alone

I have to say that these will stay on my bookshelf.  And now I’ve read everything that he’s released and need to wait for the next one… poop.  There are lots of really great series out there, but if you like something intelligent like English class and yet irreverent like Terry Pratchett, you’d do yourself a service to check these out.

Perfectly delightful.  Plock.

Lost In A Good Book, by Jasper Fforde, 432 pages

The Well Of Lost Plots, 416 pages

Something Rotten, 416 pages

Thursday Next: A First Amongst Sequels, 384 pages

The Year Of Living Biblically

yolb_paperback Sure, we all live by some biblical rules – we shalt not kill, we shalt not covet other people’s cool stuff (well, we try this one), we shalt not take the last shrimp puff from the buffet – but what if you tried to follow ALL the rules in the Bible?  The one that says you can’t wear mixed fibers or you should stone adulterers?  And welcome to crazy beard land!

A.J. Jacobs does just that, and finds out that it ain’t easy being holy but if you fake it ’til you make it you might learn something about yourself that you didn’t know before.

*****

I bought this book on a whim one day when I was with my friend Brea (she puts me in these types of silly moods) and I couldn’t put it down once I finally picked it up.  This book is funny.  It’s meant to be, so I don’t have to feel bad about laughing (thank goodness!).

Jacobs breaks out his year into 2 parts, the first 9 months working through the Old Testament and the last 3 working through the New Testament.  Apparently there are a lot more rules in the Old Testament and that’s where you get your real Orthodox Jewish population.  Those guys with the curly sideburns?  That’s not fashion, that’s a God rule.

Part of Jacobs’ challenge is not only trying to find a modern-traditional way to follow an ancient governance, it’s also his internal conflict with the study (and close adherence to) religious practices that he doesn’t subscribe to.  It’s interesting to see what happens when he “walks the walk” and you could probably go on and on about the power of belief but this book isn’t preachy and I’m not going there.  Let’s just say while that he didn’t transform from agnostic to Rabbi, it’s probably impossible to not be changed in some way by an experience like this.

Jacobs is an entertaining writer and does a good job of mixing the crazy parts of his experiment (his wife’s reaction to certain rules that men must follow regarding menstruating woman is one of the funniest things I’ve read in a long time) while keeping a personal tone to his story.  Mixed in with the surreal and fantastical is a real down to earth reality of a year in the life of someone who only sort of realizes that he’s on a spiritual journey as well.

If you want a feel for this book and his writing, check out his website or, if you just want to read something quick and funny, here are a few rules that he followed.  And I have already broken one… you’re only getting one update today so I’ll say ‘sorry’ now for being a liar.

The Year of Living Biblically, by A.J. Jacobs, 416 pages

Published in: on March 9, 2009 at 8:38 pm  Comments (1)  
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The Fourth Bear

fourth-bearDetective Jack Spratt and Mary Mary are back in action!  This time, they have to find the psychopathic Gingerbread-man and keep him from ripping anyone else in half as well as try to discover just what happened to Goldilocks.  Amongst the burning questions are “is the Gingerbread-man a cookie or a cake?”, “How can porridge be too hot, too cold and just right if they were all poured at the same time?” and “Was there a fourth bear?”

Once again it’s up to the Nursery Crime division to get to the bottom of it all while trying to preserve their own threads of sanity and, in some cases, reality.

*****

I really enjoy Fforde’s work.  His irreverent style and crazy imagination just tweaks my funny bone in all the right ways.  I love his characters and I think that the idea that nursery rhyme inhabitants live and work among us us borderline brilliant.

This series started with The Big Over Easy (scroll a couple pages, it was first this year) and Fforde doesn’t disappoint with this second book.  He brings back the characters that we know and love and puts them in the same ridiculous situations we expect.  It doesn’t seem strange to see Jack break up a porridge ring, for instance.  After all, everyone knows that bears can’t control themselves and it’s a highly regulated substance.  Also, you forgive him puns (like the cringe worthy arguments over the ‘right to arm bears’) because it’s just so damn believable and seems to work.  Right to arm bears.  Eek.

So, once again, I have to recommend this guy.  I just think his work and characters are charming and I am looking forward to the next one on this series.

The Fourth Bear by Jasper Fforde, 378 pages

Practical Demonkeeping

practicaldemon_lg Meet Catch.  He’s a shape-shifting, people-eating demon.  Meet Travis.  He’s 100 years old and really sick of  Catch.  And when they come to Pine Cove, California, they both see something appealing – Catch sees an endless buffet, and Travis sees the potential end to his unwilling partnership.

Add in some pagans, the King of the Djinn and the normal inhabitants of the tourist town you’ve got the fixings for one hell of a story.

*****

Well, folks, here’s the first time I have to say this.  This book was just “okay.”  I’m actually a little bummed about it because I really like Christopher Moore’s other books and wanted to like this one.  This is his first, and either I missed something incredibly clever about it, or I honestly think he was a bit lucky to get to do the next ones.

Christopher Moore is known for irreverent, offbeat humor.  He’s been compared to folks like Dave Barry.  And generally, he lives up to this reputation, just not this time.  This book wasn’t bad, per se… but if you’re going to read a Moore book, start with Lamb or The Stupidest Angel.  Or even Bloodsucking Fiends.  Just don’t start with Practical Demonkeeping – you’ll get the wrong idea.  I don’t love the setting and the characters weren’t as compelling as he’s written in other books.  This book was a really quick read (I actually finished it last night) and it’s not overly memorable.

To be fair, I might have not been in the mood, who knows.  So I’ll mark it to come back to at some point and see if I vibe it differently.   For right now?  I can’t recommend that you drop everything and read this one, so I won’t.

Practical Demonkeeping by Christopher Moore, 243 pages

Published in: on January 21, 2009 at 6:40 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Gun Seller

gun_seller1 Thomas Lang isn’t what you’d call a bad guy… but then he’s not exactly a good guy either.   After all, if he was a bad guy, he would never have tried to warn the American industrialist that someone was trying to hire Lang to kill him.  On the other hand, if he was a good guy, nobody would have tried to hire him in the first place.

What follows is a game of international intrigue involving terrorists, helicopters, unique marketing campaigns and a lot of people called Carl.  This is a great send up the classic spy novel, with some genuine humor, romance and cleverness thrown in for good measure.

*****

Let’s start out by saying that yes, this is *that* Hugh Laurie – the asshole doctor in House, the ponce from Blackadder, half of the Fry and Laurie comedy duo.  You know, that British guy (which you may NOT know if you only know him as a-hole doctor).  Well, apparently he’s also literate.

In an interview about the book, he says that he wrote it after keeping a diary and realizing that the normal day to day of our lives isn’t really that interesting.  There is a distinct lack of car chases, dinners with famous people or fights with pirates.  Okay, he actually didn’t say car crashes or pirates, but he did mention dinners in his list of “pretty incredible things taht don’t happen to me”.  He said he was looking to make up a life and fantasize an adventure.  He’s done that pretty wonderfully.

There are a lot of twists and turns and I spent a lot of time trying to figure out who knew what.  Which I guess is good in a novel like this.  Nobody wants to read a spy novel where you know what’s happening.  A note about this novels place within the genre – this is not James Bond.  It’s not really Bourne or even Clouseau.  Tom Lang is a new entity: a stupidly intelligent ex military guy who manages to get by and it pretty kick ass with a Buddha statue.

The best thing about the book is the writing itself.  Laurie has instilled his protaganist with a great and wry sense of humor and, since this is written in the first person, you get a great taste of it in every page.   This isn’t a completely serious book and it’s not meant to be.  It doesn’t really take itself too seriously, either – which is refreshing.  It’s better than your typical vacation/beach read, but it’s not going to make you think too terribly hard.  There’s no real large message here, it’s just fun.

Apparently there was some discussion about a movie and Laurie says he was working on a script.  Unfortunately, we all know how well a not completely serious British movie about terrorism would go, so it looks like it’s on the bottom of the pile for now.  Too bad, I’d go see this one with the right casting.

The Gunseller by Hugh Laurie, 339 pages

Published in: on January 15, 2009 at 10:28 am  Leave a Comment  
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Making Money

making_money

Moist von Lipwig has got to be the best civil servant in the city of Ankh-Morpork for Lord Vetinari to ask him to move from his enthralling career as the current Postmaster General to run the Royal Mint.  After all, it’s not every day that you get rescued from the hangman’s noose and thrown into the world of stamps and mail, and who would be better than an old swindler to know the ins and outs of banking?

Well, if you were to ask Moist, he would say that he’s not the guy.  He’s happy with his life, thank you very much.  But when you’re being asked by a tyrant you’d have to have some real gumption to say no.   So bring on a slobbering dog, the wizards from Unseen University, a few thousand golems and a pair of dead mans dentures and let’s get fiscal!

*****

Okay, first, I love Terry Pratchett’s Discworld’s novels.  The cover of this particular book tells me that Discworld has been around for 25 years.  25 years!!  That’s insane!  The best thing about these books is that Pratchett has created some memorable and truly unique characters that I am happy to greet when I see them again.  I only wish The Luggage was still around.  The Luggage ROCKED.

If you want to know more about Terry Pratchett, check out his website.

Now, you don’t have to start at the beginning of the series, but I’d sure you suggest that you do to get a feel for the world.  Making Money actually works fairly well as a stand alone, but there’s so much more to the world to explore that’s not shown in this one.

OH!  You should also REALLY check out “Good Omens”, coauthored with Neil Gaiman. Click here to read about it on Amazon. Who can resist a novel about Armageddon gone wrong?!  I should really dig that one out and re-read it this year…

Anyway.  Pratchett rocks.  Read his books.  Making Money rocks.  Read this one, too.

Making Money by Terry Pratchett, 404 pages

Published in: on January 3, 2009 at 12:25 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Big Over Easy

big_over_easy

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall

Humpty Dumpty had a great fall

All the King’s horses

And all the King’s men

Couldn’t put Humpty together again

What if it wasn’t a simple fall?  What if Humpty was murdered?  And what if there was an entire (albeit small) department, lead by Jack Spratt and Mary Mary, dedicated to investigating and solving crimes involving nursery rhyme characters?

Well, if that were the case, you’d be living in the world that Jasper Fforde created.  And it’s a pretty funny one.  So what if Humpty was a bit of a shyster?  And if aliens who speak binary happen to be living with us?  Fforde’s built a fantastic but believable world where anthropomorphic pigs are held responsible for the tragic death of Mr. Wolfe and the detectives with the most street cred are the ones who can write the best true crime stories for the papers.

*****

(more…)

Published in: on January 1, 2009 at 3:34 pm  Comments (5)  
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