Books are cheaper than heroin, but they DO add up....

Amy, Carrie, Chanin and Sarah buy (and read and review) their own stuff. They've been known to shop around from dealer to dealer looking for the best price. If you're interested in slipping them something to try out, just contact us.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Cocaine Blues by Kerry Greenwood

This isn't Phryne; she's more glamorous.

A few weeks back, Jenny Crusie was asking for recommendations of television series with strong female leads.  Someone mentioned the Australian series, Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries.  I was intrigued, I researched, and I hit the jackpot!

The television series is actually based on a series of books.  AN ENTIRE SERIES!!!

(Okay. Deep breath.)

You know how I love me a good series.

Miss Fisher is Phyrne (pronounced Fry-nee) Fisher, a titled, wealthy woman who dresses well, flies a plane, drives her own car, and rubs elbows with the masses.  She does all this in the late 1920s.  She's probably about 50 years ahead of her time, but she's clever and observant and puts her talents to good use.  She, as the series title suggests, solves murder mysteries.

Cocaine Blues, the first in the series, is actually a not-quite murder mystery.  Phryne first travels from the U.K. to Australia to investigate a mysterious illness that affects the daughter of an acquaintance.  The illness seems life-threatening at times but oddly absent at others.  In investigating this not-yet-death, Phryne identifies and arranges for the arrest of an illegal abortionist who rapes the women that come to him before he'll perform the back-alley procedure, meets some displaced Russian ballet dancers, and takes down the head of a cocaine ring.  That makes her sound rather busy, but most of the story lines are intertwined, so it's not disjointed or distracting.

I started the series expecting something like Carola Dunn's Daisy Dalrymple mysteries or Elizabeth Peter's Amelia Peabody mysteries.  Both of these series are based on modern, intelligent women in historical settings.  Both Daisy and Amelia speak their minds within the genteel, cultural norms of their times.  Phryne is also a modern, intelligent woman, but she pretty much breaks all the rules about speech, adventure and sex.  After I adjusted my mindset, I just settled in and enjoyed the series.

For the mystery fans out there, I strongly recommend Kerry Greenwood's Cocaine Blues.

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Friday, September 21, 2012

Sh*t My Dad Says by Justin Halpern

Laugh out loud funny. 
But lots of swearing.
Are we allowed to swear on this blog?  I failed to ask my co-bloggers before I wrote this review so I guess I will err on the side of caution and keep the swearing to a minimum.  Even though there is A LOT of swearing in this book.  Funny swearing, but a lot nonetheless.  (Side note: my mom once told me that if you are quoting something that someone said it is okay to swear. I was in 6th grade and standing in the kitchen and had just retold her something that happened at school that day.  It kind of blew my mind that she let me say sh*t in front of her).   Now, on to the review.

This review is short for two reasons.  One, I am a day late on posting.  No excuses, just late.  Two, the book is short.  It's only about 150 pages and reads super fast.   Sh*t My Dad Says was written by Halpern after he was dumped by his girlfriend and forced to move back in with his parents.  At the age of 28 he found himself working (writing for a magazine) from his childhood home while his retired dad, Sam, looked on.  His idea for the book came after he tweeted some of his dad's irreverent one liners and words of advice.  In less than one month he found himself with over 300,000 followers and requests for tv interviews.  The book is a compilation of those tweets with chapters about his earlier life mixed in.  The chapters comprise most of the book, but it was the quotes that made me have to leave the room (I was laughing too loud and my kids were trying to watch the newest episode of Good Luck Charlie.  How rude of me, right?).

These were some of my favorites that did not involve multiple curse words:

On curfew:  "I don't give a sh*t what time you get home, just don't wake me up.  That's your curfew, not waking me up."

On his son's bloody nose:  "What happened?  Did somebody punch you in the face?  ...The what?  The air is dry?  Do me a favor and tell people you got punched in the face."

On shopping for presents for his birthday:  "If it's not bourbon or sweatpants, it's going in the garbage...No, don't get creative.  Now is not a creative time.  Now is a bourbon and sweatpants time."

On slumber parties:  "There's chips in the cabinet and ice cream in the freezer.  Stay away from knives and fire.  Okay, I've done my part.  I'm going to bed."

If all of this sounds familiar that may be because there was a tv series based on the book that ran for a short time in 2010 on CBS.  William Shatner starred as Sam and although 18 episodes aired, the series was cancelled in February of 2011.  I can't speak for the tv series but I can (and will) speak for the book. It's hilarious.  Yes, it's full of swear words.  And no, it's not serious subject matter.  But it is one man's take on his childhood and upbringing at the hands of a caring yet tough father. And it's funny.  And that was enough for me. 

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Monday, September 17, 2012

Practical Demonkeeping by Christopher Moore

This is not what Llama Llama looks like.
It's not even what my kids look like.
But it's what a llama looks like.
I know, I know!  This is the fourth book by Christopher Moore book I've reviewed.  I can't help it, I REALLY like him.  You might be thinking that I actually am Christopher Moore assuming an alternate identity to anonymously hock my own books.  For one thing I have yet to write anything negative about any of his books.  Not to mention I loved Sacre Bleu so much I nearly wrote a love letter instead of a review.  But trust me, I'm not Christopher Moore.  For one thing, I just had to tell my tell my kids to stop fighting over the Llama Llama Time to Share book (oh the irony) and I'm pretty sure Christopher Moore doesn't have the foggiest clue about Llama Llama.  But mostly you know I'm not Christopher Moore because these reviews would be a lot funnier if I were.

Practical Demonkeeping is not a new book.  It was Moore's debut, and the more (pun not intended but still fun) I read the more I realized I had already read this book before.  You know, back in my former life when I wasn't a Llama Llama referee.  I had forgotten the name of the book but I hadn't forgotten that I really liked the story and the humor and the absurdities and the fancifulness.  In the small community of Pine Cove, California, things are mostly the same day in and day out.  The locals know everyone and everyone's business, and how to hustle a tourist.  But when a handsome twenty something that seems older than his looks and with a penchant for talking to the air around him shows up, Pine Cove is in for some surprises.  Travis is in town on his quest to find some important candlesticks.  He's been looking for them for about 70 years.  He really wants those candlesticks.

This is what the book looks like.
Travis mostly wants the candlesticks to rid himself of his road companion Catch.  A demon bound to Travis and under his control.....well, mostly under his control.  Catch gets hungry sometimes and when he eats he becomes visible to others.  Which would be a problem if he didn't eat the witnesses.  In Pine Cove, Travis runs into a number of characters including a pretty, newly divorced waitress with an unknown connection to his past.  Then there's Augustus Brine, the hardware store owner who really just wants to enjoy his red wine and go fishing without being pestered by the King of Djinns (who can literally swear a blue streak).  And of course, there's the reason Travis shows up with his demon in the first place; Effrom and Amanda.  They just might have those candlesticks.

There are a lot of characters, a lot of plot twisting, and a lot of fun.  I'm surprised I forgot I had read this before.  But I'm not surprised that I liked it twice.  And I'm sure you won't be surprised the next time I review another Christopher Moore book. Pin It

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Where'd you go?



Anybody there?

Right, there's been no one here for the last week because the Mayan calendar ran out.

Oh, wait.

That's not right.

The beginning of the school year upended your friendly TFA calendar keeper and left her, uh, apparently writing about herself in third person.

Sorry, y'all.

We'll be back on schedule and back in first person on Monday.

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Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

I don't know what my problem is lately.  For the past month or so, every time I go to pick out a new book the only ones that look good to me are ones about animals.  I reviewed A Dog's Purpose back in June.  I read War Horse one afternoon last week.  And now I read this.  For whatever reason, books about animals totally appeal to me right now.  So if they don't appeal to you, I apologize.  I will try very hard to make my next book review to be animal-free.

I couldn't resist.
Enzo is a special dog.  And what's funny is that he knows it.  He walks the earth with the spirit of a human trapped in a dog's body. And oh how he wished he had thumbs!  He watches TV (he loves to watch racing), hears private conversations and experiences true emotions.  He knows he is trapped in his canine form, but that doesn't stop him from doing his best to soothe, comfort and stand by his human family.  His master, Denny, is an up-and-coming race car driver with a wife and small child. When Denny's wife is diagnosed with cancer, Enzo is her comfort.  When a subsequent custody battle over the daughter ensues, Enzo is a soothing constant for the girl as well as a faithful friend for Denny.   Enzo sees from Denny that just as in racing, it isn't always about speed.  As he sees it, it is more about the big picture.  Humans should focus on what is ahead and the techniques they need to get there (just like race car drivers do on the track) that makes this life easier and more rewarding to navigate.  Enzo is positive that he will return in his next life as a human and cannot wait to explore the human world as a human instead of a four-legged creature.

If I gave away too many more details I would be spoiling some of the best parts of the book.  I will say that the special relationship Enzo maintains with each different family member was remarkable.  He knew when to play gentle with the toddler, how hard or soft he should nuzzle Eve after she returned home from one of her cancer treatments and even how to offer solace to a grieving husband and father.  The Art of Racing in the Rain makes it seem totally plausible that animals (well, dogs) can understand our conversations and even our relationships.  The absurdity of a dog processing human language and interactions takes a back seat to the profound insight being offered.  Loyalty, love and even some humor make this book a wonderful lesson in what is important in life. All through the eyes of  a dog, that is.

While researching the book, I found that Garth Stein used to be a documentary film maker.  It was in his role as a film maker that he heard about a famous legend in Mongolia.  It is a legend about what happens to a dog once it dies.  It was this legend that lead Stein to write this book some ten years after he initially heard it.  I think when an author has something gnaw at him or her like that for such a long time, it usually leads to something extraordinary.  You can click on the video book trailer below and see for yourself.

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