This is a must-have for anybody who has a soft spot for zombies, like myself. This book was a Christmas gift, and I enjoyed it immensely.
However, I haThis is a must-have for anybody who has a soft spot for zombies, like myself. This book was a Christmas gift, and I enjoyed it immensely.
However, I have to echo what some others have said about it... it's a pretty one-note book. The joke doesn't waver. I think that's perfectly fine, though, since that's kind of the point (metahumor, perhaps?).
The only thing that bugged me about it was the "totally-dude-bro" voice of the author, which was irritating enough for me to drop two stars from my rating. Admittedly, this tone fostered a couple of one-liners and paragraphs that literally had me laughing out loud, and reading them aloud to my wife. However, most of the time it was grating and sometimes bordered on embarrassing, especially coupled with the repetitive nature of the jokes themselves.
The reason that the Max Brooks zombie books are so good is because Brooks plays it straight. I think this book could have been funnier if Kenemore took that approach, too, as it would have added a more effective spoof of self-help to the continuous riff on the stereotypical zombie.
Even so, it's a light, fast, and mostly funny read, and belongs on the shelf of anybody who counts themselves a fan of zombies....more
This is a deadly gas little book that is a good read for those interested in Irish culture. It is divided into three sections: Irish slang, sex/love tThis is a deadly gas little book that is a good read for those interested in Irish culture. It is divided into three sections: Irish slang, sex/love throughout Ireland's history, and Irish recipes. While the topics certainly aren't covered in depth (most of the book is written with tongue planted firmly in cheek), they do contain the right mixture of silliness and interesting trivia.
I had no idea what "craic" was before reading this book, and I can't wait to try out the recipe for Steak and Guinness Pie. It was also amusing to see the look on my wife's face when I called her a fine bit of stuff.
While I'll continue to seek out more serious-minded books to address my curiosity towards all things Ireland, this amusing book is going right on the living-room shelf in me gaff....more
Fool is Christopher Moore's retelling of the Shakespeare tragedy King Lear, told from the viewpoint of Pocket, the mysterious fool that plays a somewhFool is Christopher Moore's retelling of the Shakespeare tragedy King Lear, told from the viewpoint of Pocket, the mysterious fool that plays a somewhat minor role in the original work. Moore's version of the bard's tragedy, however, is hilariously and unapologetically inaccurate, drawing characters, dialogue, and entire scenes from other Shakespearean works. The prose also strays decidedly away from Shakespearean English, rife as it is with anachronisms from every conceivable British era and run through the filter of Moore's distinctly American brand of humor.
If this alone is not enough to rouse fans of Shakespeare against the novel, the story is bawdy enough to give Chaucer a run for his money; nearly every page contains at least one reference to sex or masturbation, and the ones that don't give appropriately Shakespearean scenes of torture and gore.
The book is filled to the brim with bad puns, tawdry sex, and absurd, almost random humor. Some surely hate it. I can't think of anything more to ask from a book, and finished it in under a week, smiling the whole time. As with his other books, Moore certainly doesn't fail to amuse with Fool... this version of King Lear is certainly less depressing than the original, if nothing else....more
I've been finding that I really want to read light, humorous stories lately, and while a story that revolves around death is not exactly light, Moore'I've been finding that I really want to read light, humorous stories lately, and while a story that revolves around death is not exactly light, Moore's sense of humor never fails to disappoint.
A Dirty Job is the story of Charlie Asher, a self-professed "Beta Male" that counts himself lucky to have what quiet blessings he possesses: a second-hand shop in San Francisco, a smart and lovely wife who inexplicably (in his eyes) loves him, and a baby on the way. Things start to go awry for Charlie, however, when he meets a tall, dark stranger who insists that Charlie shouldn't be able to see him. From there, not only does Charlie's carefully cultivated personal life start unraveling, but he begins to experience increasingly stranger phenomena, such as names magically appearing in his datebook, objects glowing with a light only he can see, people mysteriously dying when he comes to call, and shadowy bird-women catcalling him from passing storm drains. Charlie has been tapped for the timeless occupation of shuffling souls through the mortal coil, but just as he begins to process that realization, things get even stranger, and considerably more hazardous.
I don't want to give too much of the story away, because frankly, there isn't a whole lot of story to spoil. Astute readers will guess the "big reveal" well before it happens, possibly before they finish the first chapter (and this, I believe, is a conscious decision of the author). And much of the early part of the book revolves around trying to figure out just what exactly is going on, to the point where it took me about half of the book to tie together all of the disparate storylines and supernatural doings. Thankfully, this process is well lubricated by Moore's willingness to stop early and often to throw in a one-liner, most of which are hilarious. By the time everything starts making sense, the story ramps up considerably, with a great deal of sudden suspense and a surprisingly bittersweet conclusion.
Despite this story being told with Moore's trademark absurd wit, A Dirty Job handles death and grief in a very poignant manner. Moore's afterword reveals that the story was inspired by the care of his dying mother, and the resulting experience shows in a number of key scenes in the book. The believable (sometimes painfully so) way in which the book's characters prepare for death, mourn their loved ones, and deal with their grief provides a nice counterpoint to the goofy humor, and a common theme for all of the book's crazy characters and plot devices to share.
I honestly didn't know whether I was going to like this one as I started it, but the more I read A Dirty Job, the more I realized that this might be my favorite of Moore's. Of course, I still have quite a few of his books left to read. But this one is definitely a gem....more
Another light, humorous read from Christopher Moore, this time dealing with my favorite subject in the whole wide world (note the sarcasm, there): vamAnother light, humorous read from Christopher Moore, this time dealing with my favorite subject in the whole wide world (note the sarcasm, there): vampire relationships. This one has all of Moore’s hallmarks, and I enjoyed reading it, but it seems oddly incomplete and not as satisfying as his other books.
The story follows a cute, somewhat awkward redhead named Jody, as she finds herself suddenly and without preamble attacked and transformed into a creature of the night. Left to her own devices to survive and adapt to her new lifestyle on the streets of San Francisco, Jody crosses paths with a young, naïve aspiring writer named Tommy, a new transplant who happens to work the graveyard shift at the local Safeway. What begins as an arrangement of convenience (free lunch, a place to stay, and a bona fide minion that can move around in the daylight, with the occasional sex thrown in for good measure) starts to become something more, but their new romance is threatened by the ancient vampire that created Jody, who has a bad habit of leaving corpses connected to Tommy around for the police to find. The unlikely couple joins forces with the Animals (Tommy’s aimless stoner coworkers on the graveyard shift) and the Emperor of San Francisco (a noble homeless man with his men-at-arms, a golden retriever named Lazarus and a vampire-hunting Boston Terrier named Bummer) to track down and stop the killer before he tires of his cat-and-mouse game and removes Tommy from the picture.
Despite having Moore’s trademark zaniness, the story actually doesn’t move very fast. The subtitle of this book is “a love story,” and Moore seems to take that rather seriously; the meat of the narrative is dedicated towards Jody’s internal conflict as she balances her growing feelings for Tommy against the new powers and sensations that come with being a supernatural predator. It is only near the end that the pace picks up, when her creator returns and threatens to take matters into his own hands. The nature of Jody’s internal conflict changes, here, too: not only can this other vampire teach her how to manage her new unlife, but he can also experience and share the world in the same unique way that she can (and Tommy can’t).
That all makes the book sound deep and serious. Remember, this is Christopher Moore. The reality is that most of the book is spent on sex and absurd humor. As odd as it sounds, however, the humor doesn’t quite do it for me this time around. The one-liners seem a bit more forced and the crazy hijinks a little more contrived than they do in Moore’s other books. Not so much that I didn’t find them hilarious anyway, of course, but they don’t hold up well to my other favorites of his. Many of the funny non-sequiturs early in the story are recycled later as clunky plot devices, which did bother me a little. And I really feel like the story is missing something, standing on its own; I finished the book somewhat unsatisfied, feeling like there were too many things left unexplained and too many potentially interesting plot twists that were unexplored.
This is perfect for a light read, though, and a must-read for anybody who has read and enjoyed Moore’s other works. The characters are all incredibly funny and likable, and a few even have their moments of tragedy. I don’t particularly find Tommy all that interesting, but everyone else (especially Jody and the Emperor) was a joy to read. And it looks like the sequel, You Suck, picks up immediately where this one leaves off. Depending on how that one strikes me, this book might almost seem like the first part of one story, rather than a book all its own. ...more
You Suck is a direct sequel to Moore’s last vampire comedy, Bloodsucking Fiends, and picks up almost exactly where that one leaves off. This one has tYou Suck is a direct sequel to Moore’s last vampire comedy, Bloodsucking Fiends, and picks up almost exactly where that one leaves off. This one has the same characters in the same kinds of situations, peppered with Moore’s usual raunchiness and absurdity. Much as I hate to admit it, though, I didn’t really like this one as much as Moore’s other books.
The book begins with the curtain opening on the ill-fated couple from the first book, Jody and Tommy. Elijah Ben Sapir is safely trapped in bronze, and Tommy is a brand new vampire, finally able to share Jody’s unlife as an equal rather than a minion. Meanwhile, the Animals, newly rich from hawking the art stolen from Elijah’s boat in the first book, go on an epic bender in Vegas and come back under the financial and sexual thrall of a blue hooker named Blue (appropriately enough). A whip-smart faux-Goth girl named Abby Normal is introduced as the vampires’ new minion, and cameos abound from the always lovable Emperor and eternally besieged inspectors Rivera and Cavuto. Things get complicated when Blue’s secret ambitions begin to unfold, drawing Tommy and the Animals in with them, and come to a head when Elijah escapes his confinement, newly energized and thirsting for revenge. Underneath the various shenanigans, Tommy begins to weigh his love for Jody against the general horror involved with being one of the undead.
The story is about as confusing and aimless as the above paragraph, unfortunately. This one doesn’t quite read as well as Bloodsucking Fiends; the main plot doesn’t have a lot of energy, and the various side stories don’t really go anywhere. Moore again makes an attempt at blending raunchy humor with stirring sentiment, which he sort of achieved in Bloodsucking Fiends and absolutely nailed in A Dirty Job, but it just wasn’t doing anything for me here. The love story seemed like an afterthought to the sex, violence, and one-liners; it literally resurfaces at the end of the book, abruptly and without a whole lot of introspection. Speaking of the ending, this book ends even more abruptly than the last one, and with much less elegance. Brand new characters show up at the last minute to solve some problems, and the rest of the story is frozen (fairly literally) without any resolution except for Moore’s patented humor. I have absolutely loved every Christopher Moore book I’ve read up until now, but sadly, I couldn’t really get into this one. Especially considering that I was hoping for a more robust (well, robust for Moore, anyway) story after the enjoyable but weirdly unsatisfying Bloodsucking Fiends.
All of that being said, the book is still saucy and witty the same way that all of his other books are, and is still fun to read. The Emperor gets less page time here, unfortunately, but it’s more than made up for by the hilarious diary entries of Abby Normal (who, by the way, has her role here cleverly foreshadowed in A Dirty Job). But I really would only recommend it to those who have read Bloodsucking Fiends. And even then, these books are my least favorite of Moore’s works, which saddens me a little bit, considering that there’s a lot to like about them. They are clever and funny, but are just a little anemic when it comes to actual story. Perfect light read material, though....more
I’ve been following Wil Wheaton for quite some time, mostly by happenstance. I stumbled upon his blog back around 2001 or so, led there by my long-staI’ve been following Wil Wheaton for quite some time, mostly by happenstance. I stumbled upon his blog back around 2001 or so, led there by my long-standing fondness of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and ended up being a fairly active participant on the message boards he maintained at the time. Since then, I’ve enjoyed watching him on his ascendant path to nerd spokesman, but for some reason have never gotten around to reading any of his books until now. While this one is a little rough around the edges in a few places, it delivers a perfect mix of snark and nostalgia.
The book is a collection of short reviews that Wil originally published online with AOL TV Squad. The reviews cover the first thirteen episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation’s uneven first season, and Wil apparently subjected himself to extensive rewatches while writing them in order to refresh his memory. If you own the series on DVD or have access to Netflix streaming, I highly suggest you do what I did: follow his example and watch each episode before reading its review. It definitely heightens the experience.
The first season of TNG has its high points, but it often swings between unintentionally hilarious and plain awful. Honestly, it’s hard to take seriously the vision of the future presented by the hair and makeup stylists of the late 1980s (I sensing something, Captain. Aqua Net. Aqua Net and... and rouge. So... much... rouge!) Wil calls out the inherent silliness of these early episodes from the perspective of someone who worked behind the scenes, enriching the hilarity with trivia and personal recollections. Best of all, he does it with a palpable fondness, contrasting the ridiculous bits with the truly good ones, and taking plenty of time to give credit to his wonderful costars as they navigated through a show with questionable writing but enormous potential.
The only problem I have with the book comes from the format it was initially presented in, I think. Wil initially wrote each review as a humorous online column. Thus, he packs a lot of one-liners into each chapter, and flavors them with plenty of inside baseball from Star Trek and general nerd culture. Being a Star Trek nerd, I appreciated most of these asides, but there was a groaner every now and then. It was never enough to detract from my enjoyment of the book, but a few paragraphs skirted the line of reaching just a bit too much for a joke.
Minor quibble, easily forgotten. Honestly, this is a great book for anybody who has ever watched the series, and a perfect companion piece for watching it again. It’s also worth looking at for anybody who has a general interest in science fiction, since it offers an acerbic and often hilarious look at a seminal science-fiction franchise. ...more
I got this one by winning a stack of Dark Horse books in a raffle at this year’s ALA Annual Conference. I didn’t think much of it at first; it’s veryI got this one by winning a stack of Dark Horse books in a raffle at this year’s ALA Annual Conference. I didn’t think much of it at first; it’s very short, and looks like a novelty piece or an offshoot of a larger work. I was hooked by the second page, though. The humor alone is worth picking up Doctor Grordbort’s Contrapulatronic Dingus Directory.
This is essentially a fanciful catalogue of intricate, highly dangerous ray guns and other equipment for manly men who want to conquer the moon people and impress at social gatherings. There is no story to speak of, beyond the common elements of an alternate retro-futuristic universe where rugged, mutton-chopped adventurers traipse across the solar system, pillaging planets and seducing space vixens. The weapons, gizmos, and robots share a distinct H. G. Wells vibe, and bristle with random tubes, antennae, bulbs, and unpronounceable pseudo-scientific elements. The book is capped off by a richly illustrated vignette of Lord Cockswain’s adventures hunting exotic Venusian wild game with even more exotic weaponry.
Even though the book is slim (it’s even shorter than it looks, thanks to the thick cardstock pages), there is a lot of content packed into each page. The print is small, and the format perfectly emulates an old-timey pamphlet. There is a mix of illustrations and actual photographs of the products (designed and built at Broadmore’s day job: special effects powerhouse Weta Workshop) and each entry comes with both specifications and marketing copy. These little articles are the reason to flip through this faux-brochure; they are drenched in wry, bawdy humor that starts out hilarious and gets progressively more absurd. Offhand descriptions of violent intended use and horrific side-effects sit alongside meaningless retrotechnobabble and meathead slogans that could fit in an advertisement for “natural male enhancement,” all with subtle world-building and steampunk-esque gewgaws in the background. It’s a rollicking mess that’s perfect for reading in bite-sized chunks. The mini-comic at the end doesn’t add much, but the artwork is gorgeous, and it presents a nice thematic punctuation mark.
I don’t usually offer more than a middle-of-the-road rating for story-light companion pieces like this one, but I bumped it up a bit just because I found it so funny. The sense of humor is reminiscent of the violent buffoonery and bravado of the video game Team Fortress 2; sure enough, as I discovered, you can get “Grordbort packs” in the game for the Soldier, Engineer, and Pyro, with more on the way. Absolutely perfect....more
This sweet little graphic novel is Telgemeier’s memoir of a freak dental accident in middle school, and the effect of the various orthodontic remediesThis sweet little graphic novel is Telgemeier’s memoir of a freak dental accident in middle school, and the effect of the various orthodontic remedies on her as she navigates the already fraught transition into high school. Smile, an Eisner Award winner, has been on my radar for as long as I’ve been a professional librarian, and I’m glad I finally picked it up.
The book is happily thick and meaty for a comic, though naturally it reads fast. The art is lovely. It’s bright and cartoonish, but very expressive and complex when it needs to be, and full of great little details. I enjoyed the settings in particular; many comic artists give background short shrift in favor of the action, but for some reason the setting really grabbed me while reading this. I think the autobiographical nature of the book is part of it, since setting is so integral to memory. Growing up in the same general area as Telgemeier had something to do with it too, I imagine.
In fact, a lot of my love for this book comes from my ability to identify so closely with it. I mean, I’ve never been a Girl Scout, and thankfully have never had any teeth knocked out. But you better believe that I remember not being able to eat Corn Flakes for a week after getting the wires on my braces tightened, because my teeth ached so much. I remember the Loma Prieta earthquake vividly. And I definitely remember the epiphany I had at around the same age as Raina in the comic, when I realized that some of my friends weren’t actually all that nice to me. Telgemeier captures all of these external and internal events beautifully.
The pivotal moments in the story are predictable and given a fairly mild treatment, but that’s a meaningless complaint coming from an adult reader. This is a great comic for middle-grade readers (of any gender, I maintain, though it’s an especially good pick for girls), and honestly it’s a good choice for the library of any comic fan....more
Once again, a subjectively enthusiastic review for a collection of one of my favorite comic strips. Nothing much new here; once again, if you're a fanOnce again, a subjectively enthusiastic review for a collection of one of my favorite comic strips. Nothing much new here; once again, if you're a fan, you've already read these strips online. If you're not familiar with Penny Arcade, give them a try if you play video games and have a high tolerance for profanity and absurdity. Krahulik's art is consistently hilarious and Holkins is one of my favorite writers, even when he goes overboard with the vocabulary porn (which is most of the time, and probably is a factor in why I like him so much).
You can see in this collection the beginnings of Krahulik's evolution from the art style in previous years to the one he currently uses. I still prefer the older stuff to the John K.-esque drawing he does now, but I'm coming to appreciate why he's going that way. The characters are much more expressive (and, as a result, a lot funnier).
Holkins' commentary isn't quite as as illuminating this time around, since he spends a lot more page space relying on the original posts he did when the comics were published online. The extra content is as spare as it was in the previous book, too: concept art from the Paint the Line card game. However, paired with the special presentation of the Paint the Line 2 strips in this collection, I still enjoyed the addition.
So, yeah: another good choice for existing fans, and volumes 7-9 are a good place for anyone new to the comic to jump in. Also, the cover and the blurb on the back are funny enough to be worth the cost, if one was in any doubt....more
This book has a lot going on. Eating disorders, bullying, navigating queer politics, ballet culture, musical theater culture, and it's all cobbled togThis book has a lot going on. Eating disorders, bullying, navigating queer politics, ballet culture, musical theater culture, and it's all cobbled together beneath a funny, upbeat protagonist that somehow manages to navigate all of it (even her own substantial brokenness) while remaining optimistic and true to herself. The author has achieved something remarkable in tying all of these various themes together without the whole thing coming apart.
I was not a big fan of the writing style; while the stream-of-consciousness infodumping and conversational grammar makes for a truly authentic teen protagonist voice, I found it hard to focus on the proceedings after a while. Especially after Moskowitz indulged in the thing that irks me about George R. R. Martin's writing: repeating an idiom. Everybody in this book swallows over and over and over again (written just like that) when they get anxious. Maybe that's a Thing that I'm unaware of, but it irritated me.
Still, this was a quick and incredibly fun read with a truly diverse cast of characters, and I'm inclined to like it solely on the merit of how satisfying the ending is....more
I've been meaning to get to this one for a quite a while, since I find a definite appeal in mixing British politeness with undead hordes. This was anI've been meaning to get to this one for a quite a while, since I find a definite appeal in mixing British politeness with undead hordes. This was an immensely fun read, but I did have my quibbles with it.
A synopsis shouldn't be necessary; this is Austen's Pride and Prejudice, set on the same story framework and supported with passages directly from the original text. What's changed here is the context. This version of the English countryside is under siege by "the strange plague," and bands of "unfortunate stricken" roam through the manicured gardens and forest lanes, devouring the brains of those who cross their path. The Bennett sisters, Mr. Darcy, and even Catherine de Bourgh are recast as skilled zombie-slayers, trained in the Orient and merciless in their occupation. As such, the social and romantic trials of Elizabeth Bennett take on a new seriousness against the backdrop of mortal danger from the claws and teeth of hungry zombies.
This really is as clever as it sounds, and works better than one would think it would. However, the mixing of the two genres isn't as seamless as would be ideal. Occasionally, the blend works well; oddly enough, it's the violent scenes that work best. Some confrontations between characters are reworked as kung fu duels, and strolls to and from the village become harried defenses against roving zombies. These scenes are not only hilarious to read, but actually contribute to the pace and tone of the story quite well. However, more subtle instances of Dawn of the Dead-ing in other parts of the book aren't quite as graceful. I sometimes felt like it was overly obvious where Grahame-Smith pasted his own sentences in Austen's paragraphs, which made those parts seem more gimmicky than I would have liked. I almost wish that this would have been an original story, rather than a reimagined one. I think I would very much enjoy a Regency novel with supernatural elements worked directly into the tapestry of the plot and characters, rather than simply stitched on top. For that reason, I'm very curious about the recently-released prequel.
Of course, part of my problem might be that I've never been a prime candidate for being an Austen fan to begin with, since I am not an independent-minded woman with occasional fantasies that feature Colin Firth as Fitzwilliam Darcy. Though I very much like the story and characters of Pride and Prejudice, getting through Austen's language was trying for me even here, with the occasionally zombie attack and martial arts duel to grab my attention (and, conversely, make the Regency stuff stick out even more). Of course, that's my weakness, not that of the writing.
All that being said, this is definitely worth reading for anyone who likes Austen, has a soft spot for zombies, or is just an avid reader of current popular fiction. The problems I found are minor, and highly subjective; overall, this is a wonderfully quirky and enjoyable book to read....more
This book and its sequels are currently all the rage among the middle-school reader set. I’ve gotten rave reviews from kids and sniffing disdain fromThis book and its sequels are currently all the rage among the middle-school reader set. I’ve gotten rave reviews from kids and sniffing disdain from hype-sensitive gatekeepers, so I checked it out for myself. Not exactly an example of great fiction for young people, but I have to admit: it’s kind of hilarious.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid boasts a very simple premise: it is the journal (complete with handwritten entries and drawings) of Greg Heffley, a sarcastic middle-school student who does his best to navigate the waters of goofy friends, hapless parents, angry teachers, and the “morons” he must share the school with every day. The book unfolds in a series of vignettes that chart a schoolyear in the life of Greg. There are a few consistent story threads, but the book is mostly dedicated to the various schemes that Greg cooks up with his best friend Rowley, the myriad ways in which they go wrong, and the improbable ways in which Greg attempts to save his own day.
The book is an extremely lightweight read, but the humor is just right. It has just the right amount of gross-out “boy humor” without being needlessly crass, and is still witty enough to be genuinely funny in some places. It’s not Newbery material, for sure, and there isn’t much to digest; a diligent reader can easily knock this one back in well under an hour. But it really is pretty funny, and reading the exploits of a wimpy but sharp character like Greg is more than a little cathartic for those of us that didn’t really have a good time when we were in junior high.
I knocked off a star for one reason: funny as he is, Greg is kind of a little jackass. I think I am only reacting to this because I am soon to be a father to a son, myself, and am somewhat afraid of having to deal with a child who finds manipulation, deception, and plain old selfishness so acceptable and humorous. Greg proves to be a pretty good kid by the end, but not until the last minute. Honestly, I’m a little chagrined that I even care about this, considering how lighthearted this read is supposed to be taken (and how surprisingly funny I found it). Still, I can see that being a concern for parents who want to give this to their kid. Take note: Greg Heffley is basically an older and smarter Dennis the Menace with slightly more impulse control.
Not too shabby, all-in-all. I find the format to be interesting, and how popular it is proving among young readers especially so. It’s somewhere between light novel, blog, and graphic novel, since it was originally a continuous webcomic. So, not the best literacy tool, but definitely a good read for kids who usually stick to comic books. And yes, I do think there’s enough here for childish adults (ahem) to enjoy, as well....more
This was a quick read that elicited a lot of sympathetic head-nodding and a few wry grins, but didn't really ignite a whole lot of deep thought. I meaThis was a quick read that elicited a lot of sympathetic head-nodding and a few wry grins, but didn't really ignite a whole lot of deep thought. I mean, that wasn't really the point of the book, I guess. It follows the same curmudgeonly formula as Truss's previous book, this time tackling our society's ubiquitous rudeness instead of the misuse of punctuation. This one doesn't quite hit the same right notes, though.
Truss admits right off the bat that she is writing a "moral homily" that doesn't have any real point other than to bemoan the obvious. So, I suppose that it isn't much surprise when that's exactly what I got. The book is divided into six separate chapters, each of which covers a distinct form of self-entitled rudeness that forms the current social status quo. The chapters are really mini-essays that are a mix of personal anecdotes, muddled citations from other books, and funny asides. The effect is essentially like reading an exceptionally long blog rant.
Truss certainly isn't off the mark here, but ranting about rude people is a little less satisfying than ranting about comma abuse. I think we can all agree that class divisions are Bad and politeness for politeness's sake is Good, so what we're left with is: rude people suck, and we should treat people like we want to be treated. Okay. The book is short, though, so the point isn't overly belabored.
The most interesting part, to me, is one of the random asides where Truss contrasts British and American society. Her observations of rudeness are presented through the lens of traditional English restraint and passive-aggression, and she has an amusing love-hate relationship with American directness that would both stop rudeness in its tracks and is uniquely rude, itself.
Other than that, though, this was just a short, idle read for me. It was amusing, but didn't really go anywhere... I'd recommend Eats Shoots and Leaves as a more effective example of Truss's wit....more
I've been meaning to read Mary Roach ever since her first book starting garnering acclaim. Now that she's got an entire lineup, I figured I'd start wiI've been meaning to read Mary Roach ever since her first book starting garnering acclaim. Now that she's got an entire lineup, I figured I'd start with Bonk, because as far as I'm concerned, it's pretty hard to miss with a humorous book about sex. For the most part, I was right; this book was consistently hilarious and more informative than I thought it would be.
As others have pointed out, though, calling this a book about sex would be slightly misleading. This is a book about sex researchers, and it sketches out a quirky history of how we have tried to chart, catalog, and understand how sex works. The book covers the usual suspects (Masters and Johnson, Alfred Kinsey, etc.), but also includes more than you'd ever thought you'd learn about pig insemination, rhesus monkey courting rituals, and uterine contractions in hamsters, among other things. Each chapter focuses on a particular aspect of modern sexuality- male impotence, for instance, or female orgasmic ability- and unravels an eclectic and often bizarre mix of interview, citation, and the occasional personal anecdote that sets out to explain how science has attempted to catch up to them.
Roach's footnotes play a starring role, too. Most pages are peppered with footnotes that lead to somewhat random asides. These tidbits often have only a tangential relationship to the material, but are so weird and interesting that I began looking forward to them.
I tore through this book, and had only one minor qualm with it, which I've only now been able to elucidate now that I've read some other people's thoughts on it. At first I thought it might be that the concept wasn't unified, but it really was; the material is organized decently and reads very well. Then I thought I was bothered by the pages where Roach suddenly gets coy, ostensibly because she doesn't want to embarrass her children. Bonk presents a readable mix of the clinical and the explicit, but every now and again Roach suddenly becomes a little demure; the chapter on sex machines comes to mind, for example. Honestly, though, I find it difficult to keep my dignity intact while arguing that I want to be more titillated.
I've realized what it is now, though. As fearless and thorough as this book is, its scope is weirdly limited. For all its humor, it sticks to the clinical mood set by the studies it documents. Heterosexual vaginal intercourse is the star player, and anything else... say, oral or anal sex... is only given its due at the periphery. There are entire chapters on orgasms, and they are often presented in the context of fertility rather than recreation. Now, don't get me wrong... I was actually fascinated by the studies that tried to link female orgasmic response with conception, and the implications that had for human sexuality. I just thought that the book could have gone in more directions with the material. Especially considering the end, where Roach discussed Masters and Johnson's findings that committed homosexual couples have, qualitatively, the most satisfying sex... and then the book ends. Wait, what? Let's talk about that a little more!
That doesn't make this book any less fun to read, though. Roach is a deliciously funny author, and her take on this subject is provocative and educational without being raunchy or offensive. I'd definitely recommend this to readers with low inhibitions....more
I see the Septimus Heap books often mentioned in lists of must-read YA series, and considering what a hit the Harry Potter series was with me, I figurI see the Septimus Heap books often mentioned in lists of must-read YA series, and considering what a hit the Harry Potter series was with me, I figured I couldn’t go wrong with another boy wizard. Magyk is strong in some respects, and fails in others; most notably, it doesn’t really have the kind of crossover appeal that adult readers are coming to expect from books that are ostensibly for “young adults.” However, that’s not at all a bad thing, and not even that surprising, considering that the book is definitely aimed at children rather than at teens. Magyk’s lighthearted charm makes it a fun read, and a perfect book for young readers.
Magyk is the first book in the Septimus Heap series, but Septimus himself doesn’t really play much of a role. Well, he does, but the reader doesn’t find out how until the last few pages. Instead, the book focuses on the travails of the Heap family, a large and somewhat goofy clan of wizards that live in the cozy warrens of a sprawling castle complex. A violent upheaval in the ExtraOrdinary Wizard’s tower reveals the true heritage of the Heaps’ adopted daughter, Jenna, and they are forced to flee to the nearby marshes, pursued by the necromancer DomDaniel. Accompanied by the usurped ExtraOrdinary Wizard Marcia Overstrand, along with a hapless hostage from DomDaniel’s Young Army, the Heaps hide out on a pastoral marsh island while considering their next move. But as Marcia fights to return to the tower, Jenna and the boy from the Young Army discover the beginnings of their own destinies hidden beneath the marsh.
The story is straightforward and unpretentious. This is an irreverent adventure tale that revels in its own sense of humor, and while it builds a framework for the future books’ larger mythology, it doesn’t have much in the way of grand story arcs or tangled plot threads. Magyk is more about humor and wonder than anything else, and in this respect, it succeeds wonderfully.
However, this is unmistakably a children’s book. The twists and reveals are not difficult to puzzle out, and the moments of conflict (internal and external) are rudimentary and predictable. Oddly enough, this stands in stark contrast to a number of moments in the book that are genuinely grim and intense. The jarring shifts in tone struck me as odd, but would definitely make for a scary read for children, and maybe even younger teens. My biggest complaint is with the characters; none of them are particularly true to themselves. Magyk has a lot of characters to deal with, including a host of talking animals and magical objects, and we don’t get to spend a lot of time learning about and sympathizing with any of them. Thus, most of them are relegated to their appointed stereotypes, where they pause from the role much too often for the occasional cheap laugh. There is a lot of slapstick in this book, even from the important and powerful characters, and most of it occurs for no good reason. Again, it was irritating to me, but probably would be delightful to most young readers. Jenna and Boy 412 are exceptions, but even they don’t seem quite fleshed out enough.
Oh, yes, and the random capitalization and creative spelling of every other word. That got annoying very quickly. Yes, they’re doing magic. I mean, uh, Magyk. With their Wandes or their Poshyns or whatever. We understand, Angie. Thanks.
With all of that being said, there really are flashes of brilliance in Magyk. The whimsical surface of the story Sage builds sits atop a very interesting mythology that begs to be explored further. The plot, while simplistic, is tightly written and paced beautifully. The occasional moments of tension and actual violence imply that the dog-slobber jokes could unexpectedly go away and that shit could get real at any moment, which was actually somewhat refreshing. And even the characters, who I didn’t care all that much for, occasionally transcend their shallow presentation and show the promise of interesting development as the books go on.
All of my annoyances with the book have everything to do with my unrealistic expectations. This is clearly a book meant particularly for young readers, and in that respect, it’s a fantastic book. I liked this one enough to check out the next few, in any event. So, even though I found Magyk uneven from a technical standpoint, I’d definitely recommend it to those looking for a good adventure story for children, or just for a quaint, funny fantasy read....more