Comedy Sex God by Pete Holmes (4 out of 5)

•July 22, 2019 • Leave a Comment

I have to tell you; I dug the title and the cover. I’m also a little bit familiar with his comedy and his podcast. The title of this is a bit misleading, however. It should have been titled God, Comedy, Sex. Because that’s how heavy the Jesus vibe comes down. This is out in hardback from the folks at Harper.

Our author is known for his HBO specials but mostly for his podcast You Made It Weird. I’m not sure how far the book will take him because if you are expecting a lot of comedy and sex (the good stuff), you are going to be handling the cold heavy hand of rejection. Pete Holmes takes us on a magical mystery tour of his comedy career, his relationships, and his faith. All of which are connected to his upbringing. Holmes wasn’t raised by a strict Christian clan or a cult, but the teachings of his “bad” behavior (smoking, drinking, dirty thoughts, premarital sex) sending him to eternal hellfire feed into his subconscious, leading him to marry his first serious girlfriend at 22, only to be cheated on a few years later and have the marriage screech to a halt. Heartbreak doesn’t come easily to Pete. He slides into many different modes of religion (atheism, Christianity, Yellow Tail) to try to find the one that fits for him. What follows is a treatise on his faith and how much it becomes a part of his life. This book had some truly funny moments but I have to tell you, it was WAY DEEP. I am not a deeply religious person (my God of choice is Nerd Lord, Nathan Fillion), but I enjoyed his trek to the steps of spirituality. You do have to have a sense of humor to read Pete’s book, however. I think a lot of my faith-heavy flock of friends would literally throw the book at me if I didn’t warn them in advance that there is some material they may find objectionable. The appearance of Ram Dass (not a rapper, but a well known spiritualist and author) was a pleasant surprise, and one that stuck around most of the last half of the book. A good read for anyone wanting some dry humor and a lot of spiritual leaning.

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The Outsider by Stephen King (4 out of 5)

•July 21, 2019 • Leave a Comment

This will go down as the book I was reading when all hell broke loose. I bought it on June 10, left work early in the afternoon, and lodged myself at the Willowbrook Denny’s, ate TWO All American Slams, drank too much coffee, and began to read it. By the time I left Denny’s and got home, my Dad was complaining of pain in the abdomen, and feeling nauseous. Little did I know this was the beginning of the “non traumatic gastrointestinal bleed” that would culminate in his passing 11 days later. It is a mystery to me why the human subconscious tags certain things in correlation with sad and tragic things that occur in one’s life. But hey, I just did it again! Anyway, the last two Stephen King books I read…Elevation last November and Doctor Sleep in January…I was miles apart in my thoughts of them. I thought Elevation was a letdown and then Doctor Sleep was pretty great. So I am never sure with Mr. King these days. This one furthered divided my mind into quarters of Chunky Monkey.

You are never going to have a shortage of character development in a Stephen King novel. You may, however, have a shortage of what you deem as reaching too far with parts of the story. I had that complaint with Elevation. That would also ring true here, but in a smaller percentage. I thought this was a fantastic premise, but halfway through, I became very annoyed with the stalling of the overall plot and one of the characters became the first candidate for my literary sledgehammer to the nutsack. Detective Ralph Anderson reminds me of my old adage…the name Ralph is a vomitous blemish on one’s powder blue tuxedo. Ralph Cramden, Ralph Wiggum, Ralph Malph, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Wreck-It-Ralph..all of them were extraneous goo. The only cool Ralph’s are Macchio, Fiennes, and Furley. Detective Anderson is the lead on a case where a little boy is found murdered and defiled in a grotesque manner. Terry Maitland, popular Little League coach, husband, and father, was seen by a multitude of witnesses with the kid before the body is discovered. He has an alibi but fingerprints, DNA, and the eyewitnesses put him there, so Detective Ralph arrests him in public during a championship game, in front of his wife and kids. This is public shaming Stephen King-style. Then the ironclad case starts to go a little off the rails. Things start happening and others disappear, although Maitland is incarcerated. One of the happiest occurrences for this reader was the reappearance of one Holly Gibney, a central character in the Mr. Mercedes trilogy. She helped quell some of my irrational impatience with the fool boy detective. The outcome and revelations springing forth at the end are complex and entertaining. I finished this with more delight in which I have begun it. Only a weirdo like me could dig into this twisted tale with relish. The good news is there are others who agree. Not one of his best, but not one of his worst, either.

Hot Shot by Sheldon Siegel (4 out of 5)

•July 21, 2019 • Leave a Comment

I’ve been singing this guy’s praises since Stacy at Crown Books got me into him when I started there. Her description of Sheldon Siegel was “like John Grisham but better. More personal”. All these years later, I’m still reading him. The Mike Daley/Rosie Fernandez novels are give & take in the best of ways. If you like your legalese with a touch of humanity, Sheldon Siegel’s books are worth a look.

The latest book in the series finds Mike Daley, our Public Defender, having to defend Lexy Low, a young woman with a profile on San Francisco’s sugar daddy hookup site. One of her sugar daddies is billionaire/start-up founder and area sleazebag Jeff Kent. After one of their hookups, Kent ends up dead, ala John Belushi, after Lexy shoots him up with a lethal hot shot of heroin. Lexy maintains her innocence, and although the evidence seems stacked against her, Mike takes the case and runs with it. While there were many scenarios right out of the daily news, there were a lot of twists and turns I was surprised by. And obviously Mike and Rosie continue to be compelling characters, so it didn’t get old fast. You can count on Siegel for a quick and satisfying read, and he delivers yet another winner. The book is out now and available from Amazon.

Last Day by Domenica Ruta (2 out of 5)

•July 17, 2019 • Leave a Comment

Maybe I jinxed this one by starting it the morning I woke up with a migraine. I had a real hard time concentrating. I put it down and watched Food Network all day instead. The next day, I picked it up and started again. I kept saying, “I don’t know what to make of these people”.

When I finished it, I said, “I don’t know what to make of that ending. And that book.” The comparisons to Station Eleven bother me, though. Station Eleven had more going for it throughout the book. More heart. This one was a hard sell. On the side of “My Pillow” hard sell. The ending is just soul crushing. I read this a month before my father went into the hospital for the last time. 2019 has been soul crushing enough; I can’t take it in my books, as well.

May 28th every year marks the end of the world. Humanity celebrates the “holiday” celebrating the end of the world. A concept that is original and yet vaulted into the annals of literature since science fiction and fantasy became reluctant bedmates. A group of characters try to naviagate this particular gathering-book nerd Sarah is looking for love with tattooist Kurt, who is trying to make nice with his fractured family. Karen is the mentally tired and wired woman hearing voices and trying to remain stable long enough to find her long lost brother (Karen is also my favorite character. Because of all of these characters, she strikes me as the most real). Her friend Rosette (aka Barette, in my head) just ditched the Jehovah’s Witnesses to follow a pastor (think Jim Bakker) at The Last Kingdom on Earth church, and she drags Karen with her. Up above Planet Earth, three astronauts orbit on the ISS. Bear is the introspective American, Svec is the brooding Russian, and Yuri (my 2nd favorite character), the Japanese billionaire space tourist. These three and their observations frame the story as surely as the actions of the book. The characters are well illustrated; the problem isn’t with that part of the novel. The premise starts out well, but then the plot just stalls. If the purpose was to make you think about how you would spend “Last Day”, well, it worked. It made me want to beat some of the characters with a cane (Sarah, get over Kurt). If the purpose was to blur the lines over how radically different people would approach the day when they all have so much going on, mission accomplished. But it makes your reader less patient with the story arc and with these characters. Get a scorecard ready; you just might need it. As I said, great premise and several of its characters shine bright. But on a whole, as things begin to look sketchy, it begins to veer off the rails as an overall story. The last chapter? Eloquently written, but so, so, bleak. Still not sure how to describe it overall. One thing it’s not? Station Eleven.

The Rosie Result by Graeme Simsion (5 out of 5)

•July 16, 2019 • Leave a Comment

The third book in the series that began with The Rosie Project. I was surprised to see another book on the horizon earlier this year, and then I completely forgot it with everything else going on. Of course, I was thrilled when it arrived after several humdrum books in a row. I loved the first, faltered with the second, and remembered why I loved it with the third. A great way to end the trilogy.

The book is out and available in trade paperback. Let’s talk about that for a minute. The publishing industry is changing things up again. It used to be a book was released in hardcover, and then a year later, in paperback. With the advent of self-publishing in different formats- many times in paper ONLY, which is a newish trend-now publishers are producing and releasing hardcover AND paperbacks at the same time. You have to change things up. It’s not often easy to explain to customers, however. A few have expressed displeasure that they were “hoodwinked” into buying a hardcover four or five years ago when they could have gotten a paperback instead. After you have explained that it has just started that way in the past year and half….so, yes, reader, don’t be surprised if your friendly bookseller tells you that you can get either.

Sorry, I digress. Back to the review.

The Rosie Result finds Don and Rosie in Melbourne after years of living in hustle & bustle New York. Their son Hudson, a carbon copy of Don with his social issues and mannerisms, is having a hard time fitting in at school. Don is in deep shit after his genetics lecture, and Rosie has her hands full with a turncoat at her job. So, a family in turmoil between their job and school. As seen in previous books, a Don Tillman in distress can be a funny, and often heartwarming, thing. Such is the case here. Although the Tillman family’s Life Contentment Graph is on a downward spiral, the reader benefits big time. A laugh out loud funny end to a series that captured my heart years ago. I’m happy that it has a fitting end, yet sad that it is ending. Maybe Simsion can do Don Tillman in retirement down the road? I can only imagine how funny that could be! Thanks for the memories and Don Tillman, Graeme Simsion. It’s been a slice!

A Moment, Please

•July 15, 2019 • Leave a Comment

I wanted to take a moment to send a post to all 3,013 of my blog followers. The last book I reviewed was June 5, almost 6 weeks ago. While I have had writer’s (blogger’s?) block on and off this year, I hadn’t gone this long without posting in years. My father, whom I have mentioned on occasion through the years and whom I was full-time caregiver for, passed away June 21. It has taken me a long time to try to get that careening train in my head back on the tracks. I feel like things are getting back to normal, so the blog will follow, in short order. Because I am short.

I thank you for your patience and understanding and hope you will continue to follow me on my book journey.

Toil & Trouble by Augusten Burroughs (3.5 out of 5)

•July 15, 2019 • Leave a Comment

A special thank you to Anne at St Martin’s Press/MPS/MacMillan for getting me an advance of this. It is out on October 1st, so prepare now and put it on your list, computer, papyrus scroll…..

I’ve read all of Augusten Burroughs’ books and was prepared for more of his usual. This was not that. You get the sarcasm, the dry humor, and you know this is a legit book because you feel all the way through as if you are on the precipice of another life-altering adventure. Not quite the case.

This time around, Augusten dives into his family history. The supernatural. Rumblings from his mother when he was a child that he was descended from a family of witches. Witches, you say? Yes, witches. Augusten is already experiencing some interesting juju at the start of his book, like talking his husband into buying this decrepit old farmhouse in Conneticut. But…is Augusten really a witch? This is the question rolling throughout the book. But you, the reader, have a lot of meandering essays to plow through first. About his relationships with family, friends, neighbors, pets, his husband Christopher, and his toilet brush. One of those statements is false. The gist is, there are a lot of essays about the human connection. So many, in fact, that I often found myself emotionally disconnecting from the book. Or hoping for a chapter where he worried over whether he was going to dress as a witch for Halloween, given his newfound knowledge of his place in the family line. The discussions between him and his husband over what they would do with the crumbling farmhouse were pretty great. Much of the book is typical Augusten- blunt, heartfelt, sarcastic. These are the reasons we love him. There is still a great deal of that here. But, there are a lot of moments where you are reading and he comes off as whiny to the point of distraction. I could do without that. The family history of witches? Pretty interesting. I was very torn about how to rate it. 3.5 seemed good, because I didn’t worship the ground I read on, but it also didn’t outright suck donkey balls. Fans of Augusten will likely eat it up, but they may find themselves a little annoyed at parts. Overall, an enjoyable read.