Monday, June 29, 2009

Do Ants Have Assholes? by Jon Butler and Bruno Vincent

In this satire book, Jon Butler and Bruno Vincent have created a parody of pop science collections. Psuedo editors of a newspaper called The Old Geezer, the book proports to be the 'Questions and Answers' page of the newspaper. In this column, earthshattering questions such as "What If There Were No Hypothetical Questions?" or "Is Honesty The Best Policy?" or "Is It True That A Horse Was Once Pope?" are posed. The answers are satire at their best, with eccentric recurring characters, and semi-serious answers.

This book is recommended for fans of shows such as Saturday Night Live or The Daily Show, or of magazines such as Mad magazine. The humor either hits the reader's fancy or not. Some readers will love this book while others might be offended. This is a great book to dip into when you have a few minutes or want a quick laugh.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Elegance Of The Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery

In an apartment building for the very rich, things are about to change. Several inhabitants will find their life and viewpoints changed with the death of a long-time tenent, and the appearance of a new one. The concierge, Madame Michel, has held that position for twenty-seven years. Twenty-seven years in which she has lived a lie. Self-educated, she spends her days hiding behind the assumptions about her class and wants the tenents of the building to think her ignorant. She interacts with them as little as possible, and holds no illusions about how they think of her.

Paloma Josse is a twelve-year old schoolgirl, who is dissatisfied with her family, it's pretensions and life in general. She has decided that she will commit suicide on her next birthday, as she sees nothing worth living for. She loves art, literature, and music, and cannot abide the everyday hypocrisy she sees everywhere around her. She too, like Madame Michel, hides her intelligence and personality, letting no one see her true self.

Into these lives, and the lives of the other tenents, comes the change of a new tenent. He is a wealthy Japanese man named Monsieur Ozu. Courted by all the other tenents who wish to impress such a powerful man, he does not choose to spend time with them. Instead, he discerns the true nature of Madame Michel and Paloma, and befriends them both. Soon, Renee Michel is coaxed out of her shell, and visits his apartment and restaurants with him, and they become fast friends. He also interacts with Paloma, who he sees in a grandfatherly way.

The Elegance Of The Hedgehog is about the joys of life that are encountered when least suspected. It challenges the class assumptions that are still rampant in society today, regardless of talk about equality. It skewers false intellectualism and shows the true joy of exploring the meaning of life. It is about finding true friends wherever they are hiding instead of only looking in the expected places. It is a gem of a book, and I'm very glad I read it. This book is recommended for all fiction lovers. It is an inspiring, life-affirming book without taking the easy way and rolling in sentimentality.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Whole Truth by David Baldacci

Shaw has a huge problem. A good problem in a way, but a problem nonetheless. He has just proposed to the love of his life, Anna, and she has accepted. The problem? Shaw works for a secret agency of the government, and they don't want to let him leave. The work he does is very dangerous, and finding a replacement with his skills would be nearly impossible. Yet, married life is not a possiblity while he works for them in a job that means any day could be his last.
As Shaw works through this issue, he catches the interest of Katie James, a two-time Pultizer-winning journalist. Katie is involved in the story of "The Red Menace", an expose of Russia's treatment of dissidents that is ramping back up the Cold War, and bringing China into the mix this time. Anna, who works for a think tank in London called the Phoenix Group, is also investigating this story. The Phoenix Group is brutally attacked by the organization behind the "Red Menace" story, and that attack brings Shaw and Katie together. They find what the reason behind the attack on the Phoenix Group, and the reason behind the entire Red Menace scenario is, and attempt to put the man behind the entire plot out of business.
David Baldacci has written numerous thrillers, and The Whole Truth is another hit. Shaw is a strong figure who could easily turn into a character that an entire series could be written about. The plot is fast and furious, and the reader quickly comes to care about the characters. It grabs the reader by the throat and releases them, satisfied, once they finish reading the ending. This book is recommended for readers looking for an exciting read with lots of twists and turns.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Magician's Nephew by C.S. Lewis

The Magician's Nephew is the pre-quel for the Narnia books. In this book, a boy named Digory and his next-door neighbor and friend, Polly, are sent on adventures by use of magic rings given to them by Digory's uncle, Andrew. Andrew, an older man, is as afraid as he is enchanted by magic, and tries to use others to try out the various spells and incantations he discovers. He send Polly off with a magic ring, and then Digory must go after her and bring her back.

In this book, many of the touchstones of the later books are revealed. Narnia is actually created in this book by Aslan the Lion, and Digory and Polly are there for the creation. The backstory of the witch in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe is told, and Digory's part in bringing her to life and setting her free in Narnia, not through intent but through accidental happenings. The reader learns how Digory is involved in the later events of the Chronicles. Even the wardrobe's creation is related here.

I enjoyed this book immensely. The more I listen to The Chronicles of Narnia, the more convinced I am that this is truly a classic of children's literature. This book was narrated by Kenneth Branagh, which added a great deal to the audio book. This book is highly recommended for anyone who has a child, or wishes to recall the magic of their own childhood.

Saturday, June 20, 2009


The rest of the title of I Hate People! is Kick Loose from the Overbearing and Underhanded Jerks at Work and Get what You Want Out of Your Job. The authors have experience with working outside the corporate frame and bringing innovative methods to their work. Jonathan Littman has written books about innovation and also about computer hackers, a group that personifies this concept. Mark Hershon is a branding expert that has named such products as Blackberry, Pentium, Swiffer and Dansani.

Face it, whether your company has 10 employees or 10,000, you must grapple with people you can't stand in the office. Luckily Jonathan Littman and Marc Hershon have written I HATE PEOPLE!, a smart, counter-intuitive, and irreverent turn on the classic workplace self-help book that will show you how to identify the Ten Least Wanted--the people you hate--while revealing the strategies to neutralize them. Learn to fly right by the "Stop Sign" (nay-sayer) and rise above the pronouncements of the "Know-it-None." I HATE PEOPLE! will teach you how to carve out more time for yourself by becoming a "Soloist"--one of those bold individuals daring to work alone or collaborate with a handful of other talented people....while artfully deflecting the rest.

Thanks to Valerie at Hachette, I'm able to give away five copies of this book. Giveaway rules are:

1. The giveaway starts Saturday, June 20th and ends on Wednesday, July 1st at midnight.
2. There will be five winners, who will be chosen with a random number generator.
3. For one entry, leave a comment. Your email MUST be in the comment to be included.
4. You can get another entry by doing any or all of the following; follow this blog, twitter about this giveaway and post the twitter in your comment, or link to the giveaway on your blog.
5. Winners will have three days to respond with mailing addresses after email notification. Good luck!

Drood by Dan Simmons

Drood opens with the account of a horrific train accident in England in which many people are killed. One of those who escaped with their lives is the famous novelist, Charles Dickens. As he recounts the story of this life-changing event to his good friend and writing collaborator, Wilkie Collins, he tells him something he keeps from everyone else. While he was helping to rescue the other victims, he was accosted by a strange man. This man hissed as he spoke, had no nose or eyelids, filed teeth and most curiously, no one else seemed to have seen him. He seems to know who Dickens is without being told and suggests that Dickens come visit him in his underground lair in London.
Dickens is revolted yet compelled to track down this figure, who seems to be well-known to various members of the London police force. They believe he is an overlord of a cult which is responsible for hundreds of deaths over the years. As Dickens investigates, Drood's story seems to be that he grew up in Egypt, the abandoned son of an English lord who was there in the military. As he grew, he was raised by those adept in the mysterious Egyptian arts of mesmerism and the other skills of priests from the times of the Pharoahs. He came to England to find his father, and became the leader of a mysterious group who live in an underground city and who control the country's opium trade.
The book then follows Dickens and Wilkie's attempts over the years to find and fight this evil figure. It covers the last five years of Dicken's life and is narrarated by Wilkie. Besides the Drood storyline, the reader learns of English life in this time period, the working life of authors, the opium trade and how it took over lives, how the police force worked and how both the rich and the poor lived.
I've loved every book I've read of Dan Simmons's work, and Drood was no exception. This is a long book at over 700 pages, but the reader will be entranced from the first chapter. I enjoyed the inside look at Dickens' life, and how the publishing business worked. Simmons builds the suspense skillfully, and there are horrific scenes that will remain with me for a long time. This book is recommended for suspense and thriller readers.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

COMPLETED AUDIO GIVEAWAY!!!! Losing Mum And Pup by Christopher Buckley

“I had more or less resolved not to write a book about my parents. But I’m a writer, and when the universe hands you material like this, not writing about it amounts either to waste or a conscious act of evasion.”So begins award-winning satirist Christopher Buckley in the most personal and transcendent work of his life, the tragicomic true story of the year in which both of his parents died.

In twelve months between 2007 and 2008, Buckley coped with the passing of his father, William F. Buckley, the father of the modern conservative movement, and his mother, Patricia Taylor Buckley, one of New York’s most glamorous and colorful socialites. He was their only child and their relationship was close and complicated. Writes Buckley: “They were not — with respect to every other set of loving, wonderful parents in the world — your typical mom and dad.”

As Buckley tells the story of their final year together, he takes readers on a surprisingly entertaining tour through hospitals, funeral homes, and memorial services, capturing the heartbreaking and disorienting feeling of becoming a fifty-five-year-old orphan. Buckley maintains his sense of humor by recalling the words of Oscar Wilde: “To lose one parent may be regarded as a misfortune. To lose both looks like carelessness.”Christopher Buckley offers consolation, wit, and warmth to those coping with the death of a parent, while telling a unique personal story of life with legends.

Thanks to Hachette, I have three copies of this book in audio format to give away. Rules are:

1. The giveaway starts Saturday, June 13th and ends on Wednesday, June 24th at midnight.

2. There will be three winners, who will be chosen with a random number generator.

3. For one entry, leave a comment. Your email MUST be in the comment to be included.

4. You can get another entry by doing any or all of the following; follow this blog, twitter about this giveaway and post the twitter in your comment, or link to the giveaway on your blog.

5. Winners will have three days to respond with mailing addresses after email notification. Good luck!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Secrets To Happiness by Sarah Dunn

Holly Frick has just endured the worst kind of breakup: the kind where you're still in love with the person leaving you. While her wounds are still dangerously close to the surface, her happily married best friend confesses over a bottle of wine that she is this close to having an affair. And another woman comes to Holly for advice about her love life--with Holly's ex!

Holly decides that if everyone around her can take pleasure wherever they find it, so will she. As any self-respecting 30ish New York woman would do, she brings two males into her life: a flawed but endearing dog, and a good natured, much younger lover. She's soon entangled in a web of emails, chance meetings, and misguided good intentions and must forge an entirely new path to Nirvana.

From the author of The Big Love, Secrets to Happiness is a big-hearted, knife-sharp, and hilariously entertaining story about the perils of love and friendship, sex and betrayal--and a thoroughly modern take on our struggle to be happy.

This was a very enjoyable read. Fast-paced and interesting, you won't be able to put this one down as you follow the threads of each of the characters, especially Holly in her quest for love. We all probably know a Holly Frick even if our Holly days are far behind us. This is a great summer read and recommended for anyone navigating the shoals of love and relationships.

Saturday, June 6, 2009


Forced out of the Los Angeles Times amid the latest budget cuts, newspaperman Jack McEvoy decides to go out with a bang, using his final days at the paperto write the definitive murder story of his career. He focuses on Alonzo Winslow, a 16-year-old drug dealer in jail after confessing to a brutal murder. But as he delves into the story, Jack realizes that Winslow's so-called confession is bogus. The kid might actually be innocent. Jack is soon running with his biggest story since The Poet made his career years ago. He is tracking a killer who operates completely below police radar--and with perfect knowledge of any move against him. Including Jack's.
I love Michael Connelly. His book, The Poet, was one of the best detective books I've ever read. Ten years later, I still can't bring myself to let this book go and it retains a place of honor on my shelves. I'm very excited that Hachette is letting me do a giveaway of the audio version of Connelly's latest, The Scarecrow. Please read below for the rules and good luck!
1. The giveaway starts Saturday, June 6th and ends on Wednesday, June 17th at midnight.
2. There will be three winners, who will be chosen with a random number generator.
3. For one entry, leave a comment. Your email MUST be in the comment to be included.
4. You can get another entry by doing any or all of the following; follow this blog, twitter about this giveaway and post the twitter in your comment, or link to the giveaway on your blog.
5. Winners will have three days to respond with mailing addresses after email notification. Good luck!