Monday, May 10, 2010

Book 14. The Proof is in the Pudding

As spring dawns in Alabama so does my need to read pure crap. I can while away entire weekends reading book upon book with sketchy plot lines, questionable narrators, and sometimes amateurish writing. This was one of those books.

Last summer in the height of my Kindle frenzy I got hooked on cheesy mysteries. Usually with a female lead. I was drawn to Melinda Welles because she was two books into a series and there I are times I am just lazy enough to get stuck on one author and read everything that is available in quick succession. Plus there was a black standard poodle on the cover. I know, I know.

In this, the third installment in the series, Della is pegged to judge a charity cooking competition. She is a widow of a cop turned cooking school instructor turned "celebrity" chef. During the competition one of her fellow judges is murdered and she, along with her best friend's daughter and her husband's partner, is suspected of committing the crime. The cast of characters include her publicist, her reporter boyfriend, her two female best friends, her best friends daughter and her husbands partner. They have been present in the other three novels and very comfortable. By that I mean, reading these books is like watching Cheers. You know everyone, you know what is going to happen but you keep at it because everyone is just likable.

While not written poorly per se, this book seemed a bit amateurish as I am sure the other two did as well. Cooking figures prominently and and there are the requisite recipes at the end. This set up seems to be a popular one in so far as two more books that I read by different authors had this mystery cooking here is your recipes vibe. Weird really, but I suppose it sells.

This series of books provide a good afternoon diversion. While mostly fluff, the plots are interesting enough to keep you turning the pages. So if cooking, dogs, and murder, and comfortable characters is your gig, oh maybe it you aren't a guy, pick these up.

Book 13. Atomic Lobster

How I love Serge A. Storms. How I love Tim Dorsey for creating Serge A. Storms. How I hope that after book 11 Dorsey finds some new material for Serge.

Serge is the quintessential anti-hero you root for from book to book. I am not entirely sure that anti-hero is a strong enough word. He is freaking bonkers. He has OCD, ADD and all of the other three letters you can conjure. He is a psychopath who spends his days killing muggers, rapists, and litterers in the most creative of fashions. He has a good heart is completely without remorse and will do anything for his friends. He has been the central character of a cast of hundreds of crazy Floridians in 11 of Dorsey's novels. He is a veritable encyclopedia of Florida history and this love of his state is what drives him do the things that he does. Though he is clearly off his nut, he will not tolerate the "scum" that is invading his holy ground, the entire state of Florida. The individual plots all seem to run together and frankly I can't remember the specifics of Atomic Lobster other than there were retirees determining that it was more financially lucrative to live aboard cruise ships, relic smuggling "bad-guys", and a return of Serge's neighbours from Dorsey's first book. There is always a good deal of Florida movie and music history (this time it was bands from Florida that people think came from elsewhere: Skynrd and the Allman Brother's specifically) in addition to other crazy Florida trivia. Good stuff for those who have spent way too much time in that crazy state. Again, the books aren't so much about the story line but rather about the character. At least that is how they are for me. Serge's adventures are getting a bit tired and I fear that it might be best to put this money making franchise to rest. In fact, Dorsey took him to LA a few books back. Meh, good movie trivia but Serge belongs in Florida. The writing and this particular brand of humour make me laugh out loud which is why I keep coming back. If you haven't read Dorsey, start at the beginning and work your way through. The earlier ones just seem better, funnier. If you have read Hiaasen and liked Skink, you will like Serge and Dorsey's story telling. I would be willing to be bet you'd like him better. At least I do. With that I will leave you with some nuggets from Atomic Lobster that made me guffaw.

"Serge, I didn't go to school all those years to discuss Florida movies."
"Then you got gypped."
"Okay, okay. Here's what's bothering me. You want the truth? I don't have a legacy."
"Well, I have one, but it's the wrong kind. Think of all of the great creative legacies from history. Either a defining moment, like the photo of Mount Suribachi, or a fertile period, from Beggar's Banquet to Exile on Main Street. I need to leave a universally respected mark on this world or what's the point?"
"What brought this on?"
"I googled myself. People have no idea how words can hurt."

"Listen," Jim told Serge. "Don't you think you need to get back to whoever you're with --"
"Her name is Rachel."
"...back to Rachel."
"It's okay," said Serge. "I'm just getting a B.J. now. I can talk."
"In fact, it makes me want to talk. Hard to believe, but Peter O. Knight used to be Tampa's main airport. I can see it all now, silver DC-3s, alligator suitcases...Rachel watch the teeth...the terminal decorated with the 1930s art deco murals of George Snow depicting the history of flight, Daedalus to the Wright Brothers and Tony Janus, restored on display at Tampa International's Airside E, for those keeping score at home..."

Pick up some Dorsey for a lazy afternoon by the pool. Good stuff.

Book 12. Beginner's Greek: A Novel

I started this book and loved it, I read more and hated it, I finished it and loved it. The net? I am not sure how I feel about it. I have suggested it to a few friends to get their take but I have heard nothing back. Perhaps they have the same issues with book discussions as I have with blogging about them.

The book starts with Peter Russell, some type of finance guy, aboard an airplane waiting to see who is seat mate will be. As I am wont to do, Peter is scanning the aisle hoping an attractive woman (I look for the men) will make her way towards him. In his mind she will be the perfect creature, they will exchange bon-mots for the duration of the flight and, naturally, fall in love. As it turns out, this dream creature does sit down next to him. She is reading The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann (never read it). This leads Peter to begin intrinsically debating the merits of bringing up a conversation with her concerning the novel. Peter's internal monologue and resulting fears of making a fool of himself is part of the reason I loved the book. He is written so well, so real and his feeling about love seem to make so much sense. I am ahead of myself. They speak, they hit it off and she (Holly) gives him her number at baggage claim with the understanding that he will call her when is not busy with his meetings. As the pages went by following the receipt of her number I knew he was going to lose it and thus lose his chance. He did.

The book progresses and it is revealed that Peter's best friend is married to Holly and Peter is engaged to a woman who he knows he doesn't love, for he is still in love with Holly. It is not that he doesn't love her (totally forgot her name) but the he doesn't love her in the same way as Holly and this love for Holly is what seems to be the "real" thing to him. He ruminates on the fact that his fiancee loves him because he is "safe" and a good match financially, socially, and physically speaking. So he is willing to go through with it because he know it will be "fine". Peter's best friend is a bit of an asshole. We all know this guy, attractive, knows it, witty, knows it a bit of liar and huge manipulator. He is cheating on Holly and Peter knows it but feels that there is nothing he can do because the dude is best friend and Peter perceives him as being better (I read this as more charismatic, more "that guy") than Peter could ever be.

The book is divided into narratives from each of the main characters, the Fiancee, Peter, the Fiancee's Father, the Fiancee's Step Mother, and perhaps the best friend (it has been a long while since I read this). This provides wonderful insight into each of their motivations. I always find is fascinating when a male author can see so far into a woman's psyche. At any rate, the major theme is love. Throwing caution to the wind and putting your heart out there if only to get it broken. The idea of settling because you don't know what else to do, you are financially obligated to a person, you don't want to leave the comfort of what is known to search for true happiness which comes from finding that true love. The idea of one person loving another more in a relationship and the troubles that always seem to arise as a function of that inequity. Additionally Collins examines the roles people take, the trophy wife to her aging yet wealthy husband. The not as pretty girl to the girl that seems to effortlessly have it all. The gregarious guy to the nice guy. I loved all of this and it all resonated very true to me.

As the book progresses the reader knows that disaster is imminent. This is what I hated. Presently, I am not sure why it drew such ire but at the time it really irritated me. I know that I kept turning the pages because I knew it was all going to fall apart and I needed to know when and how. This seems like a good quality in a story in retrospect. I think maybe I felt over manipulated at the time. I guess, now looking back, I really did love the book.

Isn't it odd how books affect you in different ways depending upon what is happening in your own life? At least the good ones do.

That's all. Read it.

Book 11, again

This won't be long, I have so many other plot lines floating in my head but I wanted to touch on this book once again if only to say 10 books later this was one of the best. I don't remember having, or knowing about, such wonderful fiction when I was a child. The story was engrossing, touching, humourous and timeless. What a trite word, timeless, but it is the best that I have at this moment.

I hijacked my sister's Kindle and bought this book for her (I pushed the buttons and she paid for it). She too found it enjoyable and she like many of the other astute readers out there got the vampire gig from the get-go. At any rate, Bod's story was meaningful to me even as an "adult" and use the term loosely. I rambled enough about this during the book club discussion so I am going to leave it at that.

Total thumbs up and this probably one of the few I have read so far that I would recommend to just about anyone.


As it turns out I have read 10 books since my last post and have managed to write not one single review. This, I think, may make me the worst Cannonball reader of the bunch. In a sad attempt to rectify the situation I am going to sit here, playing hooky (kind of) from work and knock these bad boys out. I am going to get all 10 off my stack of to dos so I can finish the last half of this challenge with a clean slate. So faithful reader (hellooooo anyone there?) here I go.